On a Friday afternoon call with several top officials from the Office of the Attorney General, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital learned that the Ron Brown High School (previously called the Empowering Males School) and other grant-funded Empowering Males of Color programs throughout the District will now begin accepting girls.

“By opening up these important programs to girls as well as boys, DCPS has done right by both the Constitution and the neediest children of the District,” ACLU of the Nation's Capital Executive Director Monica Hopkins-Maxwell said. “The Constitution prohibits sex discrimination, and as our report demonstrated, both boys and girls of color in DCPS suffer from poor outcomes as compared to their white classmates.”

The $20 million Empowering Males of Color initiative, announced in 2015 and rolled out earlier this year, includes the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Ward 7 and grants to fund enrichment programs at specific elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the city. The high school and eleven of the sixteen grant-funded programs were originally designated as boys-only.

In its May 2016 report Leaving Girls Behind, the National ACLU and the ACLU of the Nation's Capital lauded the District’s efforts to address racial disparities in educational outcomes but charged that the exclusion of girls was unwise and unconstitutional.

On Friday’s call, Elizabeth Wilkins, Senior Counsel to the Attorney General, explained to the ACLU of the Nation's Capital that although DCPS would continue to “target” boys with Empowering Males programming, it would not deny admission to students on the basis of sex.

“From the robotics team at Noyes Elementary School to the mentoring and travel program at Eastern High, girls can benefit from additional programming just as much as boys, and we hope they’ll take advantage of these opportunities right away,” Hopkins-Maxwell said. “We encourage DCPS to make good on this promise, and to conduct marketing and outreach to ensure that girls are aware of these opportunities. We assume that girls will be able to apply to Ron Brown High School in the lottery for the next school year.”

Officials from the Attorney General’s office also indicated that DCPS would be hiring a staff member this fall to plan programs aimed at the particular challenges facing girls.

“We welcome programs aimed at closing the race gap and lifting up all of the District’s children,” Hopkins-Maxwell said. “Whatever the themes and goals of the new programming, they too should be open to all.”

A list of the sixteen grant programs funded by the Empowering Males of Color initiative is available at pages 24-25 of the ACLU’s report.

UPDATE

For over a month the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital had asked the AG’s office for a copy of the admissions policy for Ron Brown. On Friday representatives of the AG’s office called the ACLU, indicated they had spoken to the General Counsel for DCPS, and said there was no written admissions policy that differed from the lottery admission policy for all DCPS schools.

The ACLU then asked two very specific questions:

  1. Can girls apply through the lottery to Ron Brown High School?
  2. If they apply through the lottery will they be accepted?

The representatives from the AG’s office answered “yes” to both of those questions. While this was a change in what the ACLU had learned prior to Friday’s conversation, now OAG is saying this has been policy all along and that girls can be admitted – and could have been admitted in the 2016-17 class.

If DCPS has a different admissions policy, one that restricts Ron Brown to only admitting boys, they should produce the policy.

"We had been delighted to learn on Friday that girls would be given the same equal educational opportunities as boys," said Monica Hopkins-Maxwell. "The DC Government should be clear about its admissions policy – to do otherwise erodes the public trust."

Contact: Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, monica@aclu-nca.org, (202) 457-0800 ext. 1001

   Scott Michelman, scott@aclu-nca.org, (202) 457-0800 ext. 1005

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