The Boy Scouts are getting a name change.
The Boy Scouts of America says the program for 11- to 17-year-old boys will become Scouts: BSA starting next year.
The new name was meant to be a welcoming sign to girls who will start joining the program next year. Girls are already allowed to be in the Cub Scouts.
Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh predicted that both boys and girls in Scouts BSA would refer to themselves simply as scouts, rather than adding "boy" or "girl" as a modifier.
The Greater Niagara Frontier Council (GNFC) tells 7 Eyewitness News that it will start accepting girls into the Scouts BSA program this fall during the beginning of the new school year.
GNFC Scout Executive & CEO Russell Etzenhouser said, while the change is hard for some in the "tradition-laden" organization, it is being well received by younger parents with children in Cub Scouts.
Etzenhouser said there is a common-misunderstanding that the boys and girls will be fully mixed together. "Not true", said the Scout executive, who explained there will be separate troops where all the scouts will be of the same sex. "We know there are some developmental differences," explained Etzenhouser.
Efforts are now underway to make sure local Boy Scout camps will be able to accommodate the mix of boys and girls. There are approximately 7,000 Boy Scouts in the GNFC region.
One of the big questions that came from this change was what sort of uniform will the girls wear? An option is being provided for girls to wear 'skorts,' a combination short and skirt, because some religious groups had objections to girls wearing pants.
However, the changes to the Boys Scouts are also causing confusion in the public's mind about the Girl Scouts.
Alison Wilcox, chief operating officer for the Girl Scouts of Western New York, said many people think the Girl Scouts are merging with the Boys Scouts or ending its program altogether; both of which are untrue, explained Wilcox.
Wilcox believes Girl Scouts is well-tailored to meet the unique needs of young women after more than 100 years of tradition and program development.
Will Girl Scouts someday allow boys to join - just as Boys Scouts are now doing with girls? "Girl Scouts is going to remain girls only, so we will not be admitting boys into our program. It is very important to understand that girls thrive in an all-girl environment" added Wilcox.
Men are encouraged to volunteer with both the Girl Scouts and the Boys Scouts. Currently, about 50% of adult leaders in BSA GNFC are women.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.
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