'Long History' of Sex Bias Seen In N.Y.C.'s Voc-Ed Programs

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

An investigation by New York State's education department has found a "long history" of sexual discrimination in New York City's vocational-education schools. And city officials will have 90 days to respond to the findings when they receive the state's final report.

The 51-page study, undertaken at the request of the U.S. Justice Department and the office for civil rights of the U.S. Education Department, concludes that city officials have acted slowly to correct the problem and that the few corrective measures they have undertaken were "ineffective." New York City's 36,263 students in vocational and technical high schools make up the largest such program in the country.

State investigators originally released their findings to New York Schools Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado early this month, but withdrew the report two days later to allow him time to become more familiar with the problem. Mr. Alvarado assumed his position in late April.

Mr. Alvarado this week received a preliminary draft of the report. He will have 30 days to respond to the findings, and the state will send the final report shortly thereafter.

The report, the result of several visits to schools in the city last year, found that they discouraged members of both sexes from entering training programs that traditionally are the realm of the opposite sex.

Another investigation of sex discrimination in the vocational program is now under way. The new inquiry was undertaken to study topics not included in the first report, including some vocational-education schools, vocational programs in comprehensive schools, and after-school employment.

Sex Discrimination Apparent

Sex discrimination, the report found, is apparent in practically all aspects of the vocational operation--such as recruitment practices for teachers and students, guidance counseling in junior-high schools, entrance requirements for vocational programs, facilities, the teachers' roles, grievance procedures, and after-school work opportnuties.

The study also reported charges of harassment made by female students in the program. The report calls on city officials to investigate the charges and to improve the general atmosphere of vocational schools for girls.

According to a 1979 Justice Department survey of 10,500 vocational-education programs in the U.S., 95 percent of the student population in 11 of the city's 21 vocational schools was single sex. New York City and Buffalo were cited as two of the worst cases of segregation by sex.

Carol Jabonaski, coordinator of the state education department's civil-rights compliance unit for occupational education, said that the idea of sex-based schools was appropriate for the era in which they originally were established. But, she said, ending the discriminatory practices is now "absolutely critical."

"Both men and women are now working in and outside the home and deserve equal treatment," she said. "Programs that have been [male-oriented] are for jobs that pay more. With more women in the labor market, they need to get more training."

'Willingness' To Deal With Problem

Ms. Jabonaski said Mr. Alvarado has shown more "willingness" to deal with the problem than his predecessor as chancellor, Frank J. Macchiarola. New York officials have already started planning changes in the vocational-education system, including requesting assistance from the federally funded Sex Desegregation Center at Rutgers University, she said.

The federal report said that in the past city officials repeatedly had failed to heed requests by both the state and federal governments to deal with charges of sex discrimination.

Tracy Huling, chairman of the of Full Access and Rights to Education Coalition in New York City, said city education officials would need to revamp recruitment and admissions practices and instruct guidance counselors to avoid giving career advice based on stereotypes.

School principals can reduce segregation of the races in vocational programs in short periods, Ms. Huling said. She cited actions taken by Victor Herbert, principal of Samuel Gompers High School in the South Bronx. She said the school was once "the worst" in the city, but now attracts more students than it can handle--and has one of the city's best mixes of the sexes.

Buffalo officials are required to submit by October their final plan for addressing sex discrimination. Ms. Jabonaski said "we've not seen any resistance" from officials.

Vol. 02, Issue 41

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories