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White House Summit on STEM Will Hopefully Reverse Trend of No Girls of Color Taking AP Computer Science Exams in 12 States

Today, the White House with the U.S. Department of Education and The Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University Law Center are hosting “Front and Center,” a day-long conference aimed at addressing marginalized girls’ lack of access to STEM and Career and Technical Education (CTE). 

The summit comes shortly after Education Week reported that although the number of students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam “skyrocketed” from 2013 to 2014, girls—particularly girls of color—remain underrepresented among test takers.  Female students in general were noticeably underrepresented among test takers, as well as Hispanic and African American boys: only 20% of the test takers were girls, only 9% were Hispanic, and only 4% were African American. In fact, in 12 states not a single Black student sat for the AP Computer Science exam; Mississippi, where African Americans make up 37% of the state’s population, is among those states, and Montana has the dubious distinction of not having had a single female, Hispanic, or African American student take the exam.  Read more »

Guidance from the Departments of Ed & Justice Will Enforce Education Rights of Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (DOJ) released a joint guidance letter reminding juvenile justice residential facilities of their obligations under Title IX [PDF] and other civil rights laws to provide equal access to quality educational opportunities for confined youth.

The guidance makes it clear that under Title IX, all facilities that receive federal funds must offer equal educational opportunities without regard to sex. That means youth detention centers must make sure girls have equal access to career and technical programs and that facilities cannot rely on gender stereotypes when determining what opportunities to make available (e.g., automotive repair classes only for boys and cosmetology only for girls). The guidance also says that under Title IX, facilities must protect committed youth from sexual harassment and violence regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or conformity with sex stereotypes. Read more »

Department of Ed Takes Single-Sex Classes Out of the Twilight Zone

Imagine a public, co-ed elementary school in the 21st century where boys and girls are divided into separate classrooms for reading and language arts. In the boys classroom, pictures of race cars and sports imagery decorate the walls and students take part in competitive learning games; in contrast, the girls classroom is decked out in pink and animal prints with a poster warning students to “Act pretty at all times,” and students always work collaboratively in groups. Sadly, you’re not in the Twilight Zone. Classrooms like these actually exist in the United States today. Based on debunked studies that claim girls’ brains aren’t wired for competition and that boys’ brains can’t grasp emotions, single-sex classrooms that promote sex stereotypes have flourished—even though they employ sex-based discriminatory teaching methods that violate Title IX. Read more »

It Doesn't Get Any Clearer Than This

I am so tired of hearing that there is no campus sexual assault problem, that it’s just a myth perpetuated by feminists and what’s really happening is that “[g]irls are drinking themselves blotto precisely in order to lower their inhibitions for casual sex, then regretting it afterwards.” It’s incred Read more »

White House Report and Event on Girls and Women of Color

Yesterday, the White House released a report [PDF] called Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity and announced that the White House Council on Women and Girls will now have a working group to focus on the particular barriers that women and g Read more »

Today's Lesson: Inequality

I remember learning about inequality in math class back in the day. I’m sure you remember too—the lessons usually involved Pac-Man—and the terms “greater than” and “less than”. 

I encountered mathematical inequalities again when I taught them to my third graders. But since becoming a part of the team at the National Women’s Law Center, I’ve learned a lot about the other types of inequality in schools. Unfortunately, it’s no math lesson—and too many African American girls are on the “less than” side of it.

Our new report: Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity describes the barriers that African American girls encounter in school and the educational and employment outcomes that stem from these barriers. Unlocking Opportunity also offers recommendations for addressing these barriers and changing these outcomes. Read more »

Repeat Offender: NWLC Files Complaint Against Georgia School District for Ongoing Pregnancy Discrimination

Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Georgia’s Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School (WWCHS) and Wilkes County Schools for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. The complaint alleges that WWCHS is violating Title IX in a number of ways, such as excluding pregnant students from receiving homebound instruction services made available to students with other medical conditions, and refusing to excuse pregnancy-related absences.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s regional Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, details the discrimination experienced by Mikelia Seals, a WWCHS student who was pregnant during the 2013-2014 school year. Mikelia was seven months pregnant when her doctor told her she needed to go on bed rest because she was at risk of premature delivery. Mikelia and her mother then asked Mikelia’s guidance counselor for homebound instruction. The guidance counselor told Mikelia that WWCHS doesn’t provide homebound instruction services (not true). So Mikelia did the best she could with the work she got from her individual teachers – that is, until the principal told her she would not get any credit for that work or for the semester because she had exceeded the allowable number of unexcused absences. She never had the chance to finish the semester and never received a report card. The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and she is worried that she will not be able to graduate in Spring 2015 as scheduled. She hopes to go to nursing school after she graduates. Read more »

What Brown Means to Me

I remember the first time my parents told me about Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that declared racially segregated schools “inherently unequal.” My parents celebrated the decision, for redefining education opportunities in this country, for upending the racial caste system that had been constitutionally enshrined to that point, and for the opportunities that it provided for my family. It was the framework from which I learned about the civil rights movement, about women’s rights, and about social justice more broadly.

It is impossible to overstate Brown’s importance—it outlined the promise of an equal education as a foundation for an equal society. And it meant that the next generation of children in the Goss family could choose where to go to school, though note that the Knoxville Board of Education fought that point for another decade. Read more »

Good News for Black Girls and Women in NYC: Mayor de Blasio Takes First Steps to End Stop-and-Frisk

Last Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced that the City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, in its current incarnation, will soon be a thing of the past. This is excellent news: the policy, which allowed police officers to detain, question, and frisk pedestrians on the street, was declared unconstitutional by federal district court last year in light of its disproportionate impact on people of color.

In his announcement, Mayor de Blasio noted that the policy “has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.” It has also unfairly targeted women in the same demographic. Given the potentially invasive nature of a police search and pat-down, many women who were stopped likened the experience to sexual harassment. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for not only taking the steps necessary to end Stop-and-Frisk, but also for acknowledging the program’s problematic racial elements. Still, it is important that women and girls of color are not erased when we talk about police misconduct and discipline. Read more »

4th Graders Can't Fight Poverty Alone

The word poverty is being thrown around a lot this week as many of us pause to reflect on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty. But poverty is a tough concept to really wrap your head around. When I was teaching 4th grade in a public school in rural Louisiana I spent much of my time attempting to understand the realities of a life in deep poverty, and problem solving alongside my students and their families as they struggled to live from day to day.

Today there are many programs serving children and families living in poverty. Each program has different beginnings – most of them rooted in supports born out of the War on Poverty, each has evolved in its own way, each has its champions, each has its critics, but at the end of the day these supports help “my kids” and their families survive. There’s lots of data out there (much of it from my colleagues here at NWLC) that shows X families depend on Y program. But behind these numbers are real people—like my brilliant, resilient, stubborn, inventive kids – and they depend on these programs. I’ve changed their names below—but these are real stories. Read more »