THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Doug Anglin, a 17-year-old senior at Milton High School. (Dominic Chavez/ Globe Staff)
Schoolboy's bias suit
Argues system is favoring girls
By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff | January 26, 2006
At Milton High School, girls outnumber boys by almost 2 to 1 on the honor roll. In Advanced Placement classes, almost 60 percent of the students are female.
It's not that girls are smarter than boys, said Doug Anglin, a 17-year-old senior at the high school.
Girls are outperforming boys because the school system favors them, said Anglin, who has filed a federal civil rights complaint contending that his school discriminates against boys.
Among Anglin's allegations: Girls face fewer restrictions from teachers, like being able to wander the hallways without passes, and girls are rewarded for abiding by the rules, while boys' more rebellious ways are punished.
Grading on homework, which sometimes includes points for decorating a notebook, also favor girls, according to Anglin's complaint, filed last month with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
''The system is designed to the disadvantage of males," Anglin said. ''From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you'll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this."
An international group that examines equity in education called the complaint of discrimination against boys rare. And Milton school officials denied that girls get better treatment than boys. But the female student body president, Kelli Little, voiced support for Anglin's views.
Anglin, a soccer and baseball player who wants to go to the College of the Holy Cross, said he brought the complaint in hope that the Education Department would issue national guidelines on how to boost boys' academic achievement.
Research has found that boys nationwide are increasingly falling behind girls, especially in reading and writing, and that they are more likely to be suspended, according to a 2005 report by the Educational Equity Center of the Academy for Educational Development, an international nonprofit group with headquarters in Washington, D.C.
While school officials said their goal is to help all students improve, the Milton High principal, John Drottar, , suggested in an interview that there may be ways to reach out to underachieving boys. Drottar said the high school plans to reinstitute a mentoring program that will pair low-achieving students with teachers.
While it will not specifically recruit male students, boys are likely to make up a large portion of the students served, he said.
''We're aware of it," Drottar said. ''We're looking into it. On a school basis, does that mean we should look at each classroom and see if we have to encourage boys a little more than girls now? Yeah, it probably does."
Anglin -- whose complaint was written by his father, who is a lawyer in Boston -- is looking for broader changes. He says that teachers must change their attitudes toward boys and look past boys' poor work habits or rule-breaking to find ways to encourage them academically.
Without such changes, many boys now give up, he said.
The school should also recruit more male teachers to better motivate boys, Anglin said. At the high school, 64 percent of the teachers are women, and 36 percent are men, according to the school system.
Anglin's complaint has set off a buzz among the 1,000 students at the school. Little, the student body president, said she disagrees with students who think Anglin is chauvinistic.
Of the 22 students in her honors Spanish class, only one is a boy, said Little, a senior. She also said that teachers rarely ask her for a hall pass if she is not in class, while they routinely question boys walking behind her.
As for assignments, she said, one teacher expects students to type up class notes and decorate their notebooks with glitter and feathers.
''You can't expect a boy to buy pink paper and frills to decorate their notebooks," Little said.
Larry O'Connor, another Milton High senior who supports Anglin, said teachers should do more to encourage freshmen boys to do well in school, because many lack motivation.
O'Connor, who is taking two honors classes and one Advanced Placement class, said he is surrounded by a sea of girls in his classes.
He said he ended up taking high-level courses because an English teacher had pulled him aside in his freshman year and had told him that he had the potential to succeed, and that the school needed more male scholars.
While some of Anglin's concerns appear to be supported by school statistics and anecdotal evidence, school officials say some of the solutions that he offers are far-fetched.
For example, he proposes that the high school give students credit for playing sports, not just for art and drama courses. He also urges that students be allowed to take classes on a pass/fail basis to encourage more boys to enroll in advanced classes without risking their grade point average. He also wants the school to abolish its community service requirement, saying it's another burden that will just set off resistance from boys, who may skip it and fail to graduate as a result.
School official said they cannot give credit for sports and are unlikely to allow students to take courses without grades.
Superintendent Magdalene Giffune said the school system will not consider changing the community-service requirement. ''It's an important part of teaching students to be responsible citizens," she said.
The US Department of Education is evaluating whether Anglin's complaint warrants investigation, said a spokesman, Jim Bradshaw.
Anglin, who has a 2.88 grade point average, acknowledged that discrimination complaints are not often filed by white, middle-class males like himself.
But he said: ''I'm not here to try to lower the rights of women or interfere with the rights of minorities. We just want to fix this one problem that we think is a big deal."
Gerry Anglin, Doug Anglin's father, said the school system should compensate boys for the discrimination by boosting their grades retroactively.
''If you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace, what do they do? They give you more money or they give you a promotion," Gerry Anglin said. ''Most of these kids want to go to college, so these records are important to them."
Tracy Jan can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articl ... it/?page=2