KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Lawrence school system to suspend a mentoring program for male students less than a month after raising concerns about single-sex classes.
At issue is an initiative at Free State High School that aims to address the problem of male students graduating at lower rates than female students.
After participants in the LEAP Ambassador Program met their mentors at a luncheon Thursday, the ACLU’s Kansas chapter sent a letter to the district’s superintendent that said it had learned all of the students participating in the program are male and that all the mentors are “business men.” The ACLU said the program does “significant harm” to female students.
District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said district officials would withhold comment until it reviewed the program and issues raised by the ACLU.
ACLU attorney Doug Bonney said excluding female participants is a violation of Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education. He said the organization would “definitely” sue if the district doesn’t make changes.
“It’s a glass ceiling issue,” he said in an interview. “How you cannot see that is beyond me.”
Bonney said in the letter to Lawrence Superintendent Richard Doll that the ACLU wanted the district to immediately suspend the LEAP program in its current form.
“You are going to hear that graduation rates for boys, even in Lawrence, are below that for girls and that girls are performing better on standardized tests,” Bonney said. “But that’s not an adequate excuse for girls to have their legs tied to each other in a race in the business world while letting boys go forward running on their own two legs and giving them a push from the business community.”
Mentors for the program include former University of Kansas athletes, school district and university leaders and nonprofit directors.
“They are role models. I think especially when you talk about people who are former athletes or you know we have a vice president of a bank, they give our kids hope and inspire them to do something great and learn more about their field,” Free State assistant principal Keith Jones told 6News Lawrence.
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