The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem, formerly known as the The Young Women's Leadership Academy, is an all-girls charter school in Manhattan. The school's Wikipedia page contains an interesting statement:

While the American Civil Liberties Union prepared to sue [the school], it couldn't find a boy who wanted to attend it.

Wikipedia cites the following news article as a reference: https://www.amny.com/news/charter-school-will-be-a-first-for-girls/. However, this article contains only a single sentence about the ACLU, and no additional information:

When Young Women’s Leadership Academy opened, the American Civil Liberties Union readied a legal challenge, saying it discriminated against boys, but was unable to find a boy who wanted to attend the school.

I'd like to learn more about this potential legal challenge. However, I cannot find any additional information about it, and I'm starting to wonder whether it actually happened.

Did the ACLU ever prepare a legal challenge to The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem for gender discrimination, but drop the effort because they were unable to find a boy who wished to attend the school?

  • 3
    I found a WaPo article about the exact same situation, but with sexes reversed.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


The ACLU did not. A state-level affiliate of the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), did.

From an article written by Michael Meyers, who was involved with the NYCLU action against the charter school:

We had preferred but couldn't file a lawsuit because no boy presented himself as a plaintiff for admission to the Young Women's Leadership School. As I kept telling anyone who would inquire: no boy wanted handed to him upon graduation a diploma that read that he was a proud alumnus of the Young Women's Leadership School. The YWLS' very name represented an attack on Title IX's equal protection principles.

It was a legal challenge under Title IX, because the charter school was accepting public funding for students, and was therefore not permitted to discriminate based on gender (unlike a private school).

My understanding is that Title IX was amended in 2006 to explicitly allow for single-sex public & charter schools in certain situations, and permits single-sex schools as follows:

A public school district therefore may offer a nonvocational single-sex school so long as it provides a substantially equal school to students of the excluded sex. All other programs and activities of public schools (including single-sex schools) are governed by Title IX if the school district receives any Federal financial assistance.

Public elementary and secondary schools are also subject to the sex discrimination prohibitions of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the requirements of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

The challenge that the NYCLU raised in 1996 would no longer apply today.

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    The NYCLU is the New York affiliate of the ACLU (they have one in every state, I believe), so I don't think it's too wrong to attribute the action to "the ACLU". Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 3:43
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    It took me embarrassingly long to realize that "preferred" in the first quote is likely a typo for "prepared". (As in, it's a typo in the original article, not a misquote.) Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 11:47
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    It would be helpful if the quote had "[sic]" to indicate this.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 14:50
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    So this statute explicitly allows a "separate but equal" policy? Haven't we been there before?
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 14:51
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    @Wowfunhappy: "Preferred" is not a typo, just a less familiar usage. See definition 3 at Wiktionary: "To present or submit (something) to an authority (now usually in 'to prefer charges')." Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 15:36

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