The JCPS Males of Color Academy has major support from the community, but it also raises a lot of questions. Some say the legality of the program raises red flags.
The ACLU sent an eight-page letter to board members this week, citing legal concerns with federal laws and Title IX.
In a letter to the JCPS board, the ACLU calls it a "fatal flaw." The Males of Color Academy, it says, "leaves girls of color behind."
At Tuesday's meeting, Ben Gies was the only board member who voted against the new school, which is geared toward black male students.
"We have been advised by our counsel that this does provide a possibility for litigation," Gies said.
The ACLU's letter outlines those legal concerns, starting with the federal Equal Protection Clause.
"Black and Latina girls suffer from the same poor academic outcomes as boys of color," the letter reads. "Therefore, the Board would lack sufficient justification to target this school only to boys."
According to JCPS, suspension rates are highest among African-American boys. District data shows the average GPA of white male middle schoolers is .37 higher than males of color. The disparity between white females and females of color of the same age is .34.
Still, parents pushed for the new program.
"Others are concerned girls are not included," Sadiqua Reynolds told the board. "Even as the mother of two daughters in JCPS, that does not bother me."
The ACLU also cited Title IX, the federal law that prevents gender discrimination in education.
"We don't know if we are going to get a challenge from the ACLU about the fact that we are proposing a program for males and not for females," board member Linda Duncan said.
An all-boys and all-girls academy already exists in the district. Olmsted North and Olmsted South opened in 2008.
But the community said a separate academy with a curriculum focused on African-American culture is needed.
"We know the problem too well," Rev. Vincent James said. "We don't need another study to be done to understand the issues."
The Males of Color Academy is slated to open in Fall 2018. It's expected to cost $5.8 million over three years.
The ACLU said its next step is submitting open records requests to the district about the program's development.
Below is the full letter the ACLU sent JCPS:
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