Audubon Park Elementary: Don't ban girls from STEM night
Audubon Park Elementary: Don't ban girls from STEM night
Success! Immediately after the story aired on Eyewitness News with Karla Ray, Principal Anna Ferratusco called me to let me know that all students are now welcome to attend the event until the event capacity has been reached, regardless of what their parents may have been told prior.
There is a ticket purchase order form available here on the PTA's website, as well as a statement assuring all parents that girls are welcome to come:
They have also announced that they are hosting a science night for all students on February 19, 2016.
The PTA has not responded to a request for information regarding whether the 'Mother and Son' event will be re-branded as a 'Family' event, but has clarified that all students are now welcome to attend.
Thank you to everyone who reported, signed, and shared this petition to make this happen for our girls. Congratulations, girls! STEM is for everyone - lean in and take your seat at the table.
In the words of Malala Yousafzai, "We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
This is why I was heartbroken to learn that Audubon Park Elementary School of Orange Country, Florida is excluding girls from their STEM event, instead branding it as 'Mother-Son STEM night'. When concerned parents pressed for answers, they were told that there was simply not enough room for all of the children, so they decided only to offer access to the event to the boys.
I encourage everyone to call Audubon Park Elementary at 407-897-6400 to tell them exactly what you think of this.
This decision is discriminatory and reinforces gender biases that have no place within our public education system. A previous version of the petition claimed that this event is illegal. The PTA has issued a public statement that it is not federally funded, and thus not held to Title IX. If this is the case, I retract the claim that it is illegal and apologize for my mistake.
Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in schools. According to Title IX, girls and boys must be provided with all the same educational and extracurricular opportunities.
Title IX.8 states, "(Title IX) shall not preclude father-son or mother-daughter activities at an educational institution, but if such activities are provided for students of one sex, opportunities for reasonably comparable activities shall be provided for students of the other sex".
They have a 'Father-Daughter dance' scheduled as a complement to this activity.
A dance is a social function. While sentimental, it is devoid of academic merit. A STEM night is an academic function that seeks to accelerate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. These are NOT reasonably comparable activities and should not be construed as such. The implication of the message that a child should be non-electively sorted into a social activity vs. an academic one based on his or her gender is sexist and abhorrent.
Women have historically been underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM fields). It is our responsibility to the next generation to move toward progress and to strive to grow each child into an adult who has access to as many opportunities for success as possible.
Although women currently make up nearly half of the US workforce, they occupy less than a quarter of the STEM professions. STEM careers are among the highest paid and most stable that our nation has to offer. By perpetuating the gender-biased standard that 'STEM studies are for boys', we are failing our girls, and we are failing society. If we even indirectly tell our children that STEM studies are not for women, they will believe us. It is our job to lay down the foundation for the ideals that they will hold through life - it is crucially important that we send the right messages. What message do we send when we directly tell our girls, "You are not invited to a STEM event because you are a girl"?
We must not reinforce the cycle of workplace gender bias, beginning by not practicing or reinforcing educational gender bias.
When we raise girls and boys who believe that STEM studies are for everyone, we gain the valuable contributions that brilliant women could be making to these fields, we gain the female leaders that these industries desperately need, and we gain positive role models for the generation of girls that come next.
Please join me in encouraging Audubon Park Elementary School to include all of their students for STEM night. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education is for everyone.
Here is the flyer provided by the PTA for the event. http://www.audubonparkpta.org/#!mother-son-event/c1mac
I was contacted by the Director of Education from the Orlando Science Center today. She informed me that the decision ultimately rests with the PTA, as they are simply booked by them to do the event.
She also said that they are encouraging the PTA to do a father-daughter science night at some point in the future. While this would be an improvement, it's still not enough.
This continues to exclude children with non-traditional families and children outside of the gender binary. Furthermore, it separates the genders for STEM night. Don't make female students invisible to their male peers. Think about the message it sends when the male students look around and see no female students at the event. At an early age, it sets the message in their heads - girls are 'other'. They occupy no space with them in STEM. They are invisible.
The Orlando Science Center has has heard us and stated that, "We support STEM learning for all and will propose a family fun night option as well." Thanks, Orlando Science Center!
The PTA has made a formal statement that Title IX does not apply to this event because they are not a federally-funded program.