Girl Scouts challenge Boy Scouts over 'secret' recruitment of girls

It's an all-out Scout war.

The president of the Girl Scouts of the USA is accusing the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts' operations -- "surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls' offering to millennial parents."

"I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts ... and not consider expanding to recruit girls," GSUSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in a letter sent this week to the president of the Boy Scouts of America, Randall Stephenson, according to The Associated Press.

Top leaders of the two youth organizations, both struggling to stem membership declines, met this month about possibilities for coordination, the AP reported. 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 tough tone of her letter dismayed Boy Scout leaders, said BSA spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos.

"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 told the AP Wednesday.

The Boy Scouts have some coed programs dating back nearly 50 years, but this year there has been extensive discussion within the BSA community about expanding opportunities for girls beyond existing coed programs, such as Venturing and Sea Scouts.

No final decisions have been made, Delimarkos said, stressing that boys-only programs would remain at the core of the organization.

However, she said, the BSA -- in response to requests from families -- "has been exploring the benefits of bringing Scouting to every member of the family -- boys and girls."

To the Girl Scouts, such exploration amounts to a show of disrespect.

"Despite offering to engage in a constructive, collaborative sharing process, 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," Hopinkah Hannan said.

She also expressed concern about "aggressive posturing by Boy Scout leaders towards Girl Scout leaders" at recent meetings outlining the proposed girls program to interested families.

"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," her letter said. "I implore you to condemn this behavior within your organization and to create consequences for these actions."

The letter was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Delimarkos, in response, said the BSA, as an organization, has never disparaged the Girl Scouts and deeply respects its programs.

"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 added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.