New Village Girls Academy
The problem for girls is boys.
Several years ago Elizabeth Hicks, a counseling coordinator for LA Unified, had an idea, to open the first all-girls traditional public school in California in more than a decade.
It would be a rigorous STEM academy, requiring girls to take science, math and computer classes from sixth grade through high school, and based in one of the district’s neediest neighborhoods. It would be a place where girls would learn and practice social and emotional skills and be encouraged to develop as independent, analytical thinkers — just as her daughter had become at a tony all girls private school.
But that idea, which was formalized into an application for the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) as a district experimental Pilot Schools, has been in legal limbo two years running.
“The stumbling block and the reason we’ve been stymied is the fear that there might be a lawsuit,” a frustrated Hicks told LA School Report.
Despite support from Superintendent John Deasy and at least one school board member, Hicks says, “I believe that the district’s legal department is afraid that we would have a challenge from some outside entity or internal entity that would say, you have to have an all boys school as well.”
That’s not the only problem.
It appears Hicks and a group of eight LA Unified teachers, administrators and data analysts who are behind the effort to launch the new academy have stumbled into a legal hornets nest of conflicting federal, state and local policies on the issue of single sex schools in a public school system.
While the federal government encourages them, the California State Board of Education has adopted regulations saying they are prohibited, except for rare instances in which they can demonstrate serving “students with similar therapeutic and educational needs,” according to a 2006 legal opinion from the Board, which sets policies that the California Department of Education (CDE) carries out.
But CDE officials say school districts have the autonomy to open a single sex school.
“That’s because California is a local control state,” Tina Jung, a CDE spokeswoman, said. “So that means the local education agencies, in this case school districts, have more authority to run their own operations than we do here at the state.” Continue reading