- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2016

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the school year Monday by celebrating the District’s new all-male high school that aims to empower young men of color.

But some have criticized Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, saying it leaves behind girls who could use the help as well.

The city’s first all-boys public school will help create “fathers and young men that will lead our city forward,” Miss Bowser said Monday morning.

“The focus is on making sure we’re investing in our boys and young men,” the mayor said. “Productive young men are a force in their families.”

Located in the Deanwood neighborhood of Northeast, the school has opened with 110 freshmen and will add a grade each year until it serves about 600 students in ninth to 12th grade. About 150 students applied to attend.



According to Miss Bowser, the high school will employ a student-centered, college prep curriculum that will teach academics as well as develop young men’s “character, academic curiosity and service while building a strong brotherhood.”

Outgoing schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the school’s opening was a “dream come true” for many involved in D.C. Public Schools. Ms. Henderson announced in June that she will step down Oct. 1 after having led the city’s school system for five years.

Principal Ben Williams said the “young kings,” as he calls his students, will be prepared to go to college and achieve great things in several career paths. The initial focus will be on literacy and the language arts.

He also said school officials will listen to what the students want with regard to extracurricular activities. Anyone in the school who can get five people and a sponsor will be able to propose a sport or after-school club.

“We’re leaving it up to the kids,” Mr. Williams said. “Nothing is set in stone.”

However, the American Civil Liberties Union in May released a report chiding the District for not taking into account that girls of color in the city face serious problems as well.

“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,” the ACLU report said.

According to DCPS statistics, black male students are the lowest-performing demographic on standardized tests, but black female students aren’t faring much better. The ACLU report says that school officials should have looked at the problem through a broader racial lens rather than just a gender-based one.

“Indeed, on many of the measures targeted for improvement, the disparities for girls of color are as great or nearly as great as the disparities for boys of color compared to their white counterparts,” the report says.

The ACLU said it wants to make sure that “girls in DCPS are not denied the educational benefits offered at the new college preparatory high school,” adding that girls should be allowed to attend Ron Brown.

Responding to the ACLU’s criticism, Ms. Henderson said that female students “have different challenges” from boys, and hinted Monday at a Ron Brown-like program for girls.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine has said the school does not violate the Equal Protection Clause and his office is working with the ACLU to address its concerns.

Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, executive director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, said that her organization did not hear any concrete proposals in its one discussion with city lawyers.

“We have not decided on or ruled out any course of action,” Ms. Hopkins-Maxwell said. “We would welcome more information from DCPS and OAG as well as the opportunity to work with them to ensure that the rights of all students in the District are respected.”

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