For decades, there has been varying levels of tension surrounding the ability of male and female children and young adults to participate in certain activities traditionally segregated according to sex. The famous Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 – commonly referred to simply as Title IX – requires that, no “person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This does not mean, however, that girls have to be allowed to play on the men’s basketball team or that there must be a women’s football team. According to the NCAA, “Title IX does not require identical athletics programs for males and females. Rather, Title IX requires that the athletics programs meet the interests and abilities of each gender.” Furthermore, Title IX explicitly exempts the Boy Scouts and other similar organizations from its requirements.
The Boy Scouts have had a checkered history when it comes to inclusiveness. As the LA Times reports, over the course of its 100+ year history, the Boy Scouts have faced criticism and legal challenges for excluding female Scoutmasters, female members, transgender members and openly gay members. In recent years, though, the Boy Scouts have reversed many of these policies. In 1988, they voted to allow women in leadership positions – including Scoutmaster. In 2013, they reversed their policy on prohibiting openly-gay members, and in 2015 the Boy Scouts reversed its prohibition on openly gay adult leaders. Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts quickly retreated from a policy preventing membership for transgender children.
Given its recent moves towards inclusiveness, the latest development in the loosening of membership requirements is nonetheless fairly remarkable. The group announced earlier this year that it would drop the “boy” from its name to become, simply, “Scouts BSA” and that it would allow girls as well as boys to join, even allowing girls the opportunity to achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout, reports Maya Salam in an article for the New York Times.
While the move is likely to be hailed by many advocates of inclusion, some skeptics see a less altruistic, more pragmatic, reason for the reversal. “The Boy Scouts of America may also be hoping to buoy its slumping membership,” writes Salam. “On [May 2], the organization said it had about 1.25 million Cub Scouts and over 800,000 Boy Scouts in nearly 100,000 units across the United States. At its peak in the 1970s, the Boy Scouts of America, incorporated in 1910, had closer to five million members.”
Inclusion, we often say, is a business imperative. It seems that the Boy Scouts may be coming (however slowly) to that realization. Be inclusive!
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