Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge


Update, October 1, 2021: The badge will be known as CItizenship in Society. Release date is expected sometime in November. Requirements are still being formulated. It is expected that counselors will be required to complete the BSA’s Diversity training. 

Update, January 7, 2021: The BSA has announced a delay in the implementation of the DEI merit badge. Here is the official announcement from BSA Program Updates:

The introduction of the proposed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge is being delayed to allow for the careful consideration and evaluation of feedback received from a wide variety of commenters on the draft requirements. Until further notice, all Scouts working on the Eagle Scout rank should continue to use current rank requirements. Once the Eagle-required Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge is introduced, Scouts in the process of earning the rank of Eagle Scout will be given adequate time to earn it.

Updates regarding the merit badge will be shared with councils directly and via Scoutingwire. Specific questions are welcome via email at Officeof.ChiefDiversityOfficer@scouting.org.

You may have heard that the Boy Scouts of America are planning to update their portfolio of ScoutsBSA merit badges to include a new one on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

With the renewed attention being paid to the plight of minorities in America and around the world, brought to the forefront by the myriad cases of violence and brutality against people of color and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s only natural that the premier organization devoted to the furtherance of ethics among our youth should incorporate an element of tolerance and understanding toward others.

In June, the BSA announced its commitment to combat racial injustice. Within the letter to stakeholders was included a mention of a new merit badge on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to be required for the rank of Eagle Scout. At the time of the letter, few specifics were available.

We are now being told that the requirements have been completed and approved, are coming out December 1, and that the badge will be available for Scouts to earn as of January 1, 2021.  And effective with Eagle boards of review held on or after May 1, 2021, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge will be required to earn the rank. It’ll become the 14th Eagle-required merit badge, displacing one of the electives.

Education in diversity and inclusion isn’t just for the Scouts. Training for BSA’s professional employees was rolled out over the summer, and a course for adult volunteers is on the way. It’s not on the Online Learning Center just yet, but watch for an announcement soon.

The BSA’s action to further diversity and inclusion is not alone. The World Organization of the Scouting Movement, the global organization that supports Scouting around the world, has included a diversity and inclusion initiative in the triennial plan from 2014, and it’s a pillar of the WOSM’s Vision 2023 strategic plan.

Diversity is really one of the bedrocks of our movement. Any youth can be a Scout, regardless of social status or financial ability. Our doors are open to all. The Scouts in the troop I served for many years represent a wonderful farrago of national origins – Black, Latino, Asian, Indian, and European – all functioning together in patrols and sharing each other’s culture. The Scout Oath and Scout Law have the same relevance whether one was born and raised in our town or made the migration from halfway around the world to our shores. 

The concept of diversity encompasses recognizing people as individuals, understanding that each one of us is unique, and respecting our individual differences. Recognizing diversity in Scouting involves valuing and having regard for everyone, and using those differences to create cohesive and diverse local, national and world communities. The WOSM reminds us that recognizing and encouraging diversity within Scouting is important as it brings different and unique opinions and thus strengthens the capacity of the Scouting movement. The step forward in offering the Diversity and Inclusion merit badge is a good one for our youth.

Be sure to promote the new merit badge to your Scouts when it becomes available. Consider it as fundamental to a Scout’s knowledge base as First Aid, camping or cooking skills. And if you feel qualified to impart the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion in our youth, please consider becoming a merit badge counselor or adding the new badge to those you counsel. Together, we can build a Scouting program – and a world – where all can be respected and included.


This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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11 Replies to “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge”

    1. Yes, until May 1, 2021. Effective with boards of review on or after that date, the new badge is expected to be required.

      I can understand that they’d like to get the ball rolling. We’ve had Scouts earn Life at age 13 and hold their Scoutmaster Conference for Eagle on the day before their 18th birthday.

      Without knowing the exact requirements, it’s hard to tell how difficult the badge will be (with this time frame, probably no long-term requirements as with Camping or Family Life), but like all merit badges, it’s an attainable goal.

  1. That’s not really a good amount of time for Scouts that are working on Eagle at this point. Considering we don’t know how long this badge is going to take to earn and if we will have counselors in every area. We have two Scouts working on Eagle projects now and are running short on time and this is just going to throw a wrench in it for them. Should be more of a grandfather period than to have your BOR by May 1st. That’s very unfair to some Scouts that have been working on it for quite some time. The grandfather period really needs to be rethought, especially since most of the requirements involved should already be in other merit badges like they already may have done.

    1. I tend to agree with you, Don, that May may be a too-tight timeframe, especially not knowing the requirements and with the difficulties of counseling over Zoom or otherwise socially distanced. Our district has had a couple volunteers to counsel the badge but we have not yet received the requirements, so we are all still in the dark about it. Depending on how the recruiting of counselors goes in a particular area, the demand for counseling may well outstrip supply. When Cooking was made Eagle-required effective January 1, 2014, the official announcement only came a couple months earlier, but the badge had been around for a long time with counselors in place and many Scouts had already earned it.

  2. My son has been held up on completing his outdoor eagle project because of weather after numerous Covid related delays and is looking at April/May to complete. He turns 18 in August and has numerous college visits and programs planned before his senior year- including a precollege course he received a scholarship for at Notre Dame. He completed all the required merit badges before life scout so as not to interfere with his academic and school commitments which are many. He planned ahead so as not to have any more merit badges and had it not been for Covid would have had his project completed over the summer. It’s bad enough he has to complete it in the spring in the middle of AP’s. This really angers me that boys like him are not grandfathered. The leadership seems to have no clue as to how busy most scouts are at this stage in high school or how much Covid impacted the ability for scouts to plan ahead. And now the goal post is being moved right as they are ready to enter the end zone.

    1. I tend to agree with you, Kelly. Popping this new requirement almost at the last minute makes it that much more difficult for Scouts who had a plan and worked it in carefully with their other commitments, especially as they approach age 18, their senior year and college planning. I just checked and the requirements for the new merit badge, which is supposedly available to earn January 1, are not yet posted. Undoubtedly the pamphlets won’t be in Scout shops right away either, and few merit badge counselors have been recruited because they don’t know what’s involved either.

      It won’t be clear what is involved in the new merit badge until the requirements come out, but apparently they must be attainable within the May time frame. Your son has until August, so it’s certainly attainable by then, even if it does push his timeline back a bit. He could consider it more practice for facing adversity and unexpected obstacles in life.

      I have two suggestions. First, stay in touch with your district advancement team. Find out who your advancement chair is (ask your unit commissioner or call your council office to find out) and let them know your predicament, so that if any changes appear, they can keep you in mind. Second, communicate your concerns to the national advancement team – advancement.team@scouting.org. They generally invite comments from the Scouting public about advancement matters.

  3. I keep seeing the term “grandfathered” popping up in this discussion.

    It would be instructive for readers to explore the origins of this term, particularly in the context of this new MB.

    1. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

      A grandfather clause is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights or acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in. Frequently, the exemption is limited; it may extend for a set time, or it may be lost under certain circumstances. … Often, such a provision is used as a compromise or out of practicality, to allow new rules to be enacted without upsetting a well-established logistical or political situation. This extends the idea of a rule not being retroactively applied.

      In the context of the discussion on merit badge requirements, it means that the new requirement would only apply to Scouts meeting a certain milestone, such as earning Life Scout rank, after a certain date. In this case, however, there is no such “grandfather clause”. All Scouts, regardless of when they started working toward the rank of Eagle Scout, must complete the new merit badge if their board of review is held on or after May 1, 2021. There’s no exemption for those who earned Life Scout prior to a certain date. In the opinion of some, there should be such an exemption, but the BSA has not provided us with one.

  4. Missing from the definition of being “grandfathered in” is this (also from Wilkipedia:

    The term originated in late nineteenth-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states, which created new requirements for literacy tests, payment of poll taxes, and/or residency and property restrictions to register to vote. States in some cases exempted those whose ancestors (grandfathers) had the right to vote before the American Civil War, or as of a particular date, from such requirements. The intent and effect of such rules was to prevent African-American former slaves and their descendants from voting, but without denying poor and illiterate whites the right to vote.[1] Although these original grandfather clauses were eventually ruled unconstitutional, the terms grandfather clause and grandfather have been adapted to other uses.

  5. In many of the published info I read it uses the phrase “Black Lives Matter” There is nothing about this phrase that invokes thoughts of diversity or equity. This phrase is actually viewed as a biased political movement. It is a Racial statement in and of itself. I would like to hope there is no reference to this phrase in any of the material. I know there are probably thousands of parents that will remove their boys from the program if this phrase appears. I would imagine that some may even sue Scouts BSA if not taking this MB causes a boy that has worked his whole life to achieve Eagle and not be able too for any number of reasons. I would like to think that Scouts BSA would not inject a hot political topic into the program. While in concept, this could be a good merit badge for the youth, it’s important to keep Racial and political issues out of the program. You should publish the full literature long before you make it a Eagle Requirement.

    1. It’s only a political topic because some choose to make it so. The BSA’s commitment to act against racial inujustice acknowledges that it’s not:

      This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address.

      They point out that the Black Lives Matter movement, among other events, brought it to the forefront in the consciousness of a lot of people. People of color have been living in a much different world that isn’t readily apparent to some. One can look at it as an embodiment of the fourth, fifth and sixth points of the Scout Law as well.

      I agree that rushing the merit badge to become an Eagle requirement could be premature, though, and the Advancement Team has put the brakes on for now. The concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion are and have always been present in Scouting (A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout), and a visit to some troops would illustrate that (see my commentary on it here). Incorporate the concepts as soon as possible, but don’t create setbacks to Scouts at the last minute.

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