In response to a federal court order, the Detroit Board of Education recently agreed to allow girls to attend three newly established schools that were initially designed to cater to the specific needs of African-American boys in the city. However, the board members have expressed their determination to continue their legal battle in order to establish all-male schools, which they believe will help uplift boys from impoverished, inner-city neighborhoods. During an emotional meeting on August 27th, the school board president, Lawrence C. Patrick Jr., stated that there is a strong commitment from the community to explore all possibilities to ensure that male academies become a viable option. The schools, named Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Paul Robeson academies, opened one day later than scheduled on August 28th, welcoming the original 559 male students, as well as two girls from the waiting list. Additional girls will have the opportunity to apply for the remaining 136 slots within a week. The decision of the school board to continue fighting against the lawsuit challenging the establishment of all-male schools, filed by a Detroit mother with three daughters, is expected to fuel the ongoing national debate surrounding the idea of tailored classrooms or schools to cater to the needs of black and other minority males. Spencer H. Holland, the director of the Center for Educating African-American Males at Morgan State University, who played a significant role in the development of the concept of separate classes for minority boys with male role models, expressed distress and desperation within the African-American community to uplift the younger generation. Holland’s ideas are currently being tested in all-male classrooms for black students in two elementary schools in Baltimore. In recent times, various urban school districts, including Milwaukee, New York City, and Detroit, have taken the concept further by considering entirely segregated schools for males, generally featuring an African-centered curriculum. However, concerns about the legality of excluding girls from such schools led the Milwaukee school district to admit female students to its first African-American immersion school. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has strongly denounced the establishment of separate schools for African-American males, proposing that public school systems instead respond to their needs without resorting to segregation. U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander also expressed opposition to separate classrooms or schools for African-American males, emphasizing the importance of remembering the history and principles of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. At Woodward Elementary School, the principal, Clifford Watson, supervised the first day of school for regular classrooms while the approximately 250 boys enrolled in the Malcolm X Academy stayed home until the board of education made its decision on the fate of the academy. Two of the three academies will be located in schools serving other students, while the third will operate as a standalone institution. Principal Watson stressed the importance of early intervention and was the first to propose the establishment of a male developmental academy at his school. In February, the board approved the establishment of three male academies, featuring an enriched educational environment, an African-centered curriculum, a program emphasizing male responsibility, mentorship, a Saturday program, school uniforms, and specialized counseling. Some parents with daughters in the Detroit school system found these features attractive, and one girl was admitted alongside the 559 boys during the first year, albeit mistakenly. A lawsuit was filed on August 5th on behalf of two women who desired to enroll their daughters in the male academies. One plaintiff later withdrew from the lawsuit due to harassment from the community, while the other plaintiff, a mother of three daughters, remains anonymous.
Encouragement for Girls to Exercise Patience
Last week, the school board unanimously granted girls an extension until September 4 to submit their applications for the 136 available seats. These seats are now allocated for the newly named African Centered Academies, where selected students will begin their education by September 9. According to Deborah M. McGriff, the general superintendent of the Detroit schools, community activists have urged parents to refrain from enrolling their daughters in the African Centered Academies, so that the all-male experiment could remain predominantly male. Instead, parents were advised to wait for the school system to establish a similar academy that caters specifically to the needs of urban girls. The board of education has already voted in favor of opening such an academy by the following year.
Keith O’Donald, a printer who was distributing leaflets outside the board of education’s headquarters in support of the male academies, expressed his hope that the community would comprehend their intentions and choose to send their daughters to other schools. He emphasized the importance of providing specialized attention to the male academies. However, the resolution of the legal matter could potentially take months. Last week, school district officials stated that they would not appeal Judge Woods’s injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Instead, they intend to pursue a full trial in district court to address the case’s merits. Judge Woods has already established a schedule that sets the trial to commence in February of next year.
Howard Simon, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Michigan, voiced his concern over the potential waste of public funds if this course of action were pursued. He believes that these funds could be better utilized to enhance educational programs. Simon expressed his skepticism that they would succeed in their endeavor, suggesting a low likelihood of prevailing in court.