In August, the Washington D.C. Public School System opened Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, a 100-student all-boys school, specifically aimed to help black and Latino students with academic achievement as part of a tax-funded “Empowering Males of Color” initiative. The school system will reportedly not be opening a similar school for girls. Rather, it will establish a number of support groups and host an all-girls conference.
According to the Washington Post, DCPS officials held a meeting with over 100 girls of color, and they did not hear that they wanted an all-girls school. Instead, they wanted some kind of space or club to learn skills and to talk about their days.
The ACLU has questioned the legality of opening just a boys’ school, noting in a study: “Based on the documents produced, DCPS is unlikely to be able to justify the exclusion of girls from any of the sponsored programs, because DCPS’s own data lead to the unavoidable conclusion that the racial achievement gap impacts girls as well as boys of color.”
From the Washington Post:
In the District, white students far outperform black students on standardized tests, and black male students are the lowest-performing demographic. But minority female students are also underperforming, and the ACLU’s “Leaving Girls Behind” report contends that it is unfair for the school system to paint the problem as a gender issue instead of a more broad racial one...
City leaders have argued that black and Hispanic boys face the lowest graduation rates, with a rate of 48 percent and 57 percent, respectively, compared with the 82 percent of white male students who graduate.
But minority girls aren’t much better off, the ACLU study found. Black and Hispanic girls graduate at a rate of 62 percent and 66 percent, respectively, compared with 91 percent of whites.
The study also found gaps in math proficiency rates: for black male students, the rate is 37 percent, for Latinos, 55 percent, and for white male students 91 percent. For black girls, the proficiency rate is 45 percent, for Latinas, 61 percent, and for white female students 93 percent.
In a 2016 interview with NPR, DC Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson said, “We know that one size does not fit all. And if we’re going to ensure that our young men have the best chance possible to be successful, we have to differentiate our strategies. As we look at our data, we see that our young women have different challenges, and so we’re trying to develop a set of strategies that will specifically address young women... And we think that that’s actually appropriate.” She also noted that DC has an all-girls charter school—Excel Academy—which hadn’t received much attention.
Meanwhile, on Friday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the creation of a task force to assist in finding the city’s missing, who are primarily black and Latinx, and mostly girls.
“We are in a city of many disparities,” said Deborah Shore, founder of the Sasha Bruce Youth Network to the Post. “Young people who don’t have a lot of resources and are in a situation that is unstable, they are pretty vulnerable.”