Harlem all-girls school faces discrimination charge
September 19, 1997
Web posted at: 7:20 p.m. EDT (2320 GMT)
From Correspondent Norma Quarles
NEW YORK (CNN) -- When the Young Women's Leadership School opened its doors in New York's Harlem last fall, it set off a storm of controversy.
The school is one of only a handful in the nation -- and the only one in New York City -- geared toward a single sex. That led a coalition of civil rights groups to file a complaint with federal officials, saying the Harlem school discriminates against boys.
"When a child is told that he cannot go to the same school as his sister, only because his sex is different from his sister, that is what we call invidious discrimination," said Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. "The state, the government, cannot use public funds to discriminate against people on the basis of their sex."
Single-sex public schools were once commonplace in the United States, but they became almost extinct after passage in 1972 of Title IX, a law which prohibits sex discrimination in state-supported education.
But the Young Women's Leadership School was created based on research showing that adolescent girls perform better in science and math in single-gender settings.
"Teachers teach boys and girls differently, so sitting next to each other in the same room, boys get a far more intense education than girls," says David Sadker, author of "Failing At Fairness."
Francesca Floret, the PTA president for the Young Women's Leadership School, says parents are "unhappy that there's a controversy."
"We feel our daughters have a right to have an education, and no one should be irritated about it," she said.
There has been no formal ruling from the U.S. Department of Education on the complaint and no order to close down the school. However, the New York City Board of Education has reportedly been told to begin looking at possible changes to settle Title IX concerns.
Among the ideas being looked at: admit boys to the school or create a separate all-boys school in the same district.
Two other public all-girls schools, in Baltimore and Philadelphia, have not faced similar legal challenges. However those schools are open to boys, though none has ever applied. In California, three all-girls schools have opened in conjunction with three all-boys schools to meet concerns about Title IX compliance.
The chancellor of New York's public schools, Rudy Crew, issued a statement reiterating his support for the school.
"I am confident that strong legal grounds support the continued operation of this school, and I believe a final ruling ultimately will be issued in its favor," Crew said.