What on earth were they thinking?
The Dallas Independent School District took about 5,700 fifth-grade boys on February 9 to see a new movie about African-American fighter pilots in World War II, but female students were excluded.
Busloads of Dallas school children began arriving at the AMC Mesquite 30 theater around 10 a.m Thursday morning to watch “Red Tails” about the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black American male pilots who flew missions in World War II. But girls were kept from seeing the movie.
A teacher at the theater this morning told Dallas Morning News photographer G.J. McCarthy that the movie was part of Black History Month instruction, and she was told it was something the boys would be interested in because it was about African-American men.
Dallas ISD spokesman Jon Dahlander earlier today told me that the boys-only field trip to see Red Tails cost $32,000.
This afternoon, Dahlander clarified. The $32,000 only covers the cost of movie tickets for the 5,000 students. The district spent another roughly $25,000 on the buses to take the fifth graders to the AMC 30 Mesquite.
Schools also had to hire substitute teachers for the girls who stayed behind in the classrooms. Dahlander said he didn’t know how much that cost.
Dahlander said interim Superintendent Alan King and interim chief of schools Shirley Ison-Newsome approved showing the movie.
Why only boys? Dahlander said: “There is only so much available space at the movie theater, so the decision was made for boys to attend the movie. Girls stayed at school but principals were given the option to show them ‘Akeelah and the Bee.’”
The Dallas district, which is governed by a board of trustees and operated on a daily basis by an interim superintendent, has made no apologies for the disparate treatment of students. The rationale, they told the Dallas Morning News, was that they thought boys would enjoy the combat movie more than the girls.
From The Washington Post:
The district, which is in the grips of a funding crisis triggered by draconian education cuts by Texas legislators, paid for the field trip with federal Title I money, which is designated for educating low-income students.
Outside groups are now questioning whether the field trip violated Title IX, which prohibits schools that get federal money from gender-based discrimination.
The American Association of University Women told the Dallas Morning News that the field trip was a case of “separate but unequal,’’ and other outside experts agreed.
The irony, which was apparently lost on Dallas school officials, is that racial segregation was formally abolished in the military by President Harry S. Truman in 1948. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the military opened pilot training for women.
This year, while presidential candidates are debating women’s fitness for combat on the campaign trail, Dallas school girls aren’t just being shut out of the future. They’ve been denied the same opportunity as boys to learn about the past.
A field trip to watch an inspiring movie is a great idea; using an action film to get kids interested in historical events stands a good chance to be more effective than similar classroom instruction. It was accompanied by lesson plans; the subject matter is part of the curriculum.
So that’s all good. But the fact that the boys got to watch an action flick that got them excited about history, while the girls stayed at school and maybe got to watch a different movie, if principals let them: a movie that has nothing to do with World War II or getting kids excited about history. That’s bad news
Photo Credit: Screenshot from dallasnews.com