ACLU Challenges DC Male-Only School

(Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount, The Washington Post)

(Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount, The Washington Post)

The American Civil Liberties Union is attempting to procure the official admission policy used at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, a school for boys only, in Washington, D.C. The ACLU argues that RBCCP is violating federal and city laws by not allowing girls to attend the school.

ACLU representatives say although they have not received a copy of the policy, attorneys from the attorney general’s office revealed on Friday that the city has reversed the policy and will now begin to enroll girls, writes Perry Stein of The Washington Post.

The original concept for the school was to create an institution centered on boosting achievement in minority male students. The ACLU released a statement saying D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) had changed its course.

But upon hearing the statement release, the DCPS and the attorney general’s office denied that any change had been made and the policy remains that the school will serve only male students.

“The application period for school year 2017-2018 will open in a few months, and we look forward to serving another class of outstanding young men at this school designed for the specific needs of young men,” said Michelle Lerner, a school system spokeswoman. “At the same time, DCPS continues to provide and expand the opportunities to meet the unique needs of our female students.”

D.C.-ACLU President Monica Hopkins-Maxwell reported that her personnel had specifically asked city lawyers if girls could apply to Ron Brown by way of the school lottery system. They also queried as to whether girls would be accepted as students at the school.

Hopkins-Maxwell continued by stating that city officials told her office that no girls had applied to the school when it opened its doors. They added there is no school policy that excludes girls from attending if they apply.

City officials said their conversation with Hopkins-Maxwell was misinterpreted by the ACLU’s president. D.C. officials responded:

“As DCPS has made clear, they have not made any policy change with regard to admissions to Ron Brown. Contrary to suggestions by the ACLU, [the attorney general’s office] did not say that the admissions policy had changed, nor did our office say that DCPS has any plans to change that policy in the future.”

The Ron Brown school opened for its first academic year this month. The new school is one part of a $20 million D. C. initiative called Empowering Males of Color, a demographic that is well below other groups in important academic areas. But Hopkins-Maxwell made it clear that the advocacy group would fight the issue and take the matter to court if necessary.

It was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s idea to open the school. And as the initiative makes clear, spokesperson for DCPS Michelle Lerner repeatedly pointed out that the school was only for boys. But the DCPS website states there are no “application criteria,” and there is no reference to gender specification included on the web page, says the DCist’s Rachel Sadon.

Last February, Councilmember Mary Cheh asked the Office of the Attorney General to examine the fairness of opening a school for males only. This question was based on the fact that the US Department of Education requires any district that has a same-sex public school, to also provide an equal opportunity for the other gender.

In March, Attorney General Karl Racine determined the all-boys school would not weaken similar opportunities that are in place for girls in the district. In May, the ACLU stepped in to note that girls of color have comparable problems to their male peers. Cheh added that she was disappointed that girls were being denied admission to this school.