The Girl Scouts are taking on the Boy Scouts.
The Girls Scouts of the United States of America is accusing the Boy Scouts of America of a "covert campaign to recruit girls into programs run by the Boy Scouts," according to a letter by the Girl Scouts' president.
"We were disappointed in the lack of transparency as we learned that you are surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls' offering to millennial parents," Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in her letter to Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson. "Furthermore, it is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single-gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a coed model."
Top leaders of the two youth organizations, both struggling to stem membership declines, conferred this month about possibilities for coordination. But Hopinkah Hannan, in her letter, said she came away from that discussion feeling the Boy Scouts had already committed to an expansion of coed programs that would damage the Girl Scouts.
The letter was first reported by BuzzFeed News.
The Boy Scouts said in a statement to The Washington Post they are considering including girls in their ranks, not to boost their numbers but in response to requests from families who want their daughters to be a part of the same organization as their sons.
"The Boy Scouts of America believes in the benefit of single-gender programs," Effie Delimarkos, director of national communications for the Boy Scouts, said in a statement.
"Considering how many young girls and boys are not currently served by either of our programs, we believe we owe it to families to explore how we may be able to structure program offerings that fit into their busy lives, to deliver character development and values-based leadership training,'' Delimarkos' statement said.
Both organizations have been losing members in recent years.
The Girl Scouts' membership fell from a peak of more than 3.8 million in 2003 to 2.8 million in 2014. The Boy Scouts said current youth participation is about 2.35 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013, after a peak of more than 4 million in years past.
Some women outside the Girl Scouts have lobbied the Boy Scouts to include girls.
In February, after the 107-year-old Boy Scouts organization announced it would admit transgender children in its scouting programs, the National Organization for Women called on the group to "honor its decree to help all children by permitting girls to gain full membership."
NOW said it was inspired by the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl, Sydney Ireland, to emulate her older brother, who is an Eagle Scout.
Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts have maintained girls-only status for all their programs; the empowerment of girls is at the core of their mission.