The Girl Scouts of the USA have accused Boy Scouts of America of carrying out a "covert campaign to recruit girls into programs run by the Boy Scouts" in hopes of appealing to millennial parents and bolstering their declining membership, according to a letter they sent the Boy Scouts board on Monday.
The strongly worded letter — obtained by BuzzFeed News — alleged that BSA was "surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents."
It also accused BSA leaders of making "disparaging and untrue remarks" about Girl Scout programming at "family meetings" outlining their proposed programs for girls.
A Girl Scouts spokesperson confirmed that Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, GSUSA's national president sent the letter to BSA's national president, Randall Stephenson, and the entire BSA board.
"Through various means we have learned that BSA is very seriously considering opening their programs to girls and we have made repeated efforts to engage with them and talk about the implications," the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.
"It's a potentially dangerous and bad idea," the spokesperson said, citing research supporting "single gender programming" which says that girls learn best in an all-girls environment when it comes to scouting.
The spokesperson or the letter did not specify what BSA's proposed programs for girls were.
Effie Delimarkos, a BSA spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News that no decisions had been made regarding the girls programs and that no such programs had been implemented so far.
"Based on numerous requests from families, the Boy Scouts has been exploring the benefits of bringing Scouting to every member of the family – boys and girls," Delimarkos said in a statement. "No decisions have been made."
In the letter, Hannan wrote that they were "disappointed with the lack of transparency" from BSA in testing the programs for girls and said that BSA refused to engage with Girl Scouts despite "repeated efforts."
Responding to these accusations, BSA spokesperson Delimarkos, said, "After months of trying to engage leadership from the Girl Scouts organization about this matter, BSA leadership spoke with Girl Scout leadership earlier this month to identify potential areas of opportunities for alignment in the future."
"We are disheartened to see the Girl Scouts pull away from the possibility of cooperation to help address the needs of today's busy families," she said.
The Girl Scouts letter also called BSA "reckless" and shortsighted in "thinking that running a program specifically tailored to boys can simply be translated to girls."
Hannan accused BSA of flouting the Congressional Charter and of "undercutting" the Girl Scouts organization by aiming to recruit girls.
"It is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a coed model," Hannan wrote.
Delimarkos said that while BSA "believes in the benefit of single-gender programs," the organization had been "evaluating the possibility of serving the whole family" — a topic that she said had been reported on since April.
"We’ve been having conversations with our members and volunteers to see how to make Scouting accessible for families," she said.
"We are confused as to why, rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs, you would choose to target girls," Hannan wrote.
The letter suggested that BSA was using the proposed girls programs as a way to bolster their "declining membership."
"Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys," Hannan wrote.
The Girl Scouts spokesperson compared it to a "corporate hostile takeover."
"This is not a good fit for girls and for BSA's brand," the spokesperson said, adding that they were using these programs for a "membership push."
The letter also accused BSA leaders of making "disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming" and of bullying people at their meetings about the girls programs.
I am also deeply concerned about reports of aggressive posturing by Boy Scout leaders towards Girl Scout leaders at recent “family meetings” outlining the proposed girls program. This includes everything from disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming, to subtle implications about the weakness of Girl Scouts’ long term market strength. Starting off any program when people are feeling bullied is not in keeping with the founding ideals of either Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. I implore you to condemn this behavior within your organization and to create consequences for these actions.
She concluded the letter requesting BSA to "stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts" and "not consider expanding to recruit girls."
Read the letter:
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Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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