E-mails show Dallas ISD officials oblivious to unfairness, legal issues in boys-only field trip


Having failed to pack all of the stupidity of the following story into a lead paragraph of less than 1,000 words, we thought we’d just let it unspool, sort of like an uplifting World War II movie about the Tuskegee Airmen.

After much ballyhoo over Red Tails, with its story of African-American fighter pilots fighting racism and the Germans, administrators for the Dallas Independent School District thought the movie would make a perfect field trip for fifth-grade students who study World War II history.

Rather than call on parents to pay for their students’ tickets, or organize a fundraiser as American Eagle pilot Ray Evans did for students in Irving and DeSoto, Shirley Ison-Newsome, interim chief of schools for the district,  thought it a good idea to ask taxpayers for the $57,000.

Title I federal funding for the education of disadvantaged children paid for more than 5,000 tickets.

Perhaps thinking their fifth-grade girls did not qualify as disadvantaged enough, administrators decided only boys would make the field trip to see Red Tails. This is only a guess, because in all of the e-mail correspondence between district administrators and principals, gathered by the Dallas Morning News, no one expresses a thought about leaving thousands of little girls behind.

When asked after the Feb. 8 field trip to a Mesquite multiplex, a spokesman for district explained that girls were not allowed to attend because the theater did not have enough seats. And, besides, this was a boys movie.

As you probably have already surmised, the field trip which now explored multiple aspects of discrimination has come to the attention of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The office is weighing whether two complaints filed over the field trip constitute a violation of the gender-based protections guaranteed by Title IX.

The Texas Education Agency, which oversees the distribution of federal education funds, is reviewing whether the district used Title I funds legitimately.

We at Texas Watchdog cannot help thinking this all could have been avoided had Amelia, the 2009 film biography with Hilary Swank as female aeronautic pioneer Amelia Earhart, been released just three years later.

No, probably not.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of popcorn by flickr user Hibr, used via a Creative Commons license.