Education

Pitying Boys, Black Flight, and Watching
Your Step

By Scott J. Cech — February 01, 2006 3 min read
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You might call it the last frontier of discrimination. Decades after courts ordered schools to racially desegregate, and years after studies found that girls often get less teacher attention than boys, it seems the less-fair sex has been treated less than fairly. Or so a Massachusetts high school senior is claiming. According to 17-year-old Doug Anglin’s filing with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Milton High School discriminates against boys by making it easier for girls to succeed academically. “The system is designed to the disadvantage of males,” says the student, whose lawyer father wrote the complaint for him. “From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you’ll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this.”

Discrimination is the usual suspect when affluent parents pull their children out of a predominantly African American school system. But the parents of Los Angeles’ Ladera Heights—an expensive hilltop neighborhood with ocean views and spacious houses owned by doctors and lawyers—are also black. Still, what they want—to secede from adjacent Inglewood, a poor city with troubled schools, and join a richer, more racially mixed community—is sparking plenty of resentment. Spurned district officials say Inglewood’s public schools would improve if Ladera Heights students attended them instead of private schools. County leaders have sided with the district so far, but parents in what’s sometimes called “the black Beverly Hills” aren’t giving up. Resident Alisa Ivie says she pulled her son out of the neighborhood elementary school after two months because he was bullied and her complaints fell on deaf ears. “I don’t have an obligation to sacrifice my children to make the schools better,” she said.

Choice, or the lack thereof, is also causing consternation in the Pacific Northwest, albeit on a smaller societal scale. Concerns over childhood obesity have prompted schools across the country to ban soda and sugary foods, but officials in Longview, Washington, are finding there are downsides to such a junk-food embargo. With an open-campus high school lunch policy and a Starbucks, a pizza joint, and several convenience stores close by, the cafeteria’s not exactly hopping these days. “They don’t have enough variety,” says junior Brittainey Miller, who describes the flavored water now for sale in lieu of soda as tasting like “lip gloss.” “All the school is doing is losing money,” 16-year-old Amber Buckee observes. School leaders insist some students like the new offerings, but they can’t be happy about the tardies and absenteeism the school has faced since the new policy went into effect this year. “All the kids do is take time out of our day and go over to the gas station,” Buckee adds.

Second thoughts—and second chances—are very much on the minds of parents and students at the elite Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, California, this week. Revelations that a soft-spoken classics teacher had stabbed his father to death in a motel a decade ago have brought wrath down on administrators, who had kept Shannon McCreery’s past to themselves. The boarding school’s officials say he was upfront about what even his prosecutors describe as a consensual killing—part of an abortive family suicide pact. “We are a Catholic school seeking redemption through faith in God, offering mercy to all who seek forgiveness,” notes headmaster Anthony J. Sabatino, who hired the instructor. “Based on Christian compassion, I believe that I made the right decision.” Parents, who plan to meet and discuss their options, have a different viewpoint. “A school is not the correct venue or forum to offer redemption,” argued Ron Polito, the father of two Villanova students who also serves on the school’s finance committee.

But school is the place for senior proms—even when the seniors in question are long past school age. Beneath the white twinkle lights strung from the ceiling of Baltimore’s Seton Keough High School, as a jazz band played a swing number, students danced with about 60 residents from Catholic Charities’ Jenkins Senior Community. On the dance floor, 18-year-old Justin Coleman was having trouble keeping up with the moves of his 85-year-old dance partner, Audrey Quinn, who shook her shoulders and twisted her hips in time to the band’s booming drum. Senior citizens “know how to live life to the fullest,” Coleman noted as he took a break. Eva Scott, 85, was out of breath by her third dance—each with a different partner. “I had fun,” she said. “I asked one of the boys, ‘Is this your punishment?’ But he said no, he volunteered. It’s picked up my spirits.”

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