Saudi government sanctions sports in girls' private schools
Sarah Attar was one of two Saudi women allowed to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.
May 6th, 2013
03:30 PM ET

Saudi government sanctions sports in girls' private schools

By Schams Elwazer, for CNN

(CNN) - Saudi Arabian girls will be officially allowed to practice sports in private schools for the first time, according to an education ministry announcement reported in the nation's official press agency.

The new regulations for physical education, announced Saturday, require that girls "dress modestly" and have appropriate equipment and facilities, and that female Saudi teachers have priority to supervise these activities.

"(This decision) stems from the teachings of our religion, which allows women to practice such activities in accordance with sharia," Education Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Dakhini told SPA.

This is the first official government sanction of women's sports in schools, but some Saudis say it is not as momentous a decision as it may seem.

"This is not a big deal," said blogger Eman al-Nafjan, who writes about Saudi women's issues. "Private schools already have a physical education program, and the government knows about them. My daughter and niece both go to separate well-known private schools, and they both have sports programs."

Al-Nafjan says that although the announcement will not change anything for private school students, the decision itself could be a barometer for the introduction of sports into public girls' schools that do not have physical education programs.

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My View: Teach girls to be more like boys
Women need to feel authorized to take leadership roles, Rachel Simmons says.
May 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Teach girls to be more like boys

By Rachel Simmons, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Rachel Simmons is cofounder of Girls Leadership Institute and author of "The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence." Follow her on Twitter: @Racheljsimmons

(CNN) - Phillips Andover Academy, one of the most elite and selective boarding high schools in the country, failed again to elect a girl to its top student position - the school presidency.

Since the Maryland school went co-ed in 1973, only three girls have held this office. In a letter that launched a fiery debate across its campus, senior girls implored their peers to look hard at the school's "staggering gender imbalance" in student leadership.

Headmaster John Palfrey responded by telling The New York Times, "Girls have not had equal access to top leadership positions." Yet, access for girls is rarely the problem when it comes to pursuing leadership.

Feeling authorized to take leadership roles is the problem.

It starts early. From childhood to adolescence, girls face mixed messages about displaying power and authority.

The girls at Andover and elsewhere are socialized to be likeable, to please others, to not tout their own successes and to speak softly like proper girls. As a result, they face powerful psychological barriers to attaining leadership roles.

The impact of what I call the "curse of the good girl" effect first appears in friendships, when young girls take pains to avoid direct conflict with peers. "I want to tell her how I feel," a typical girl would say in my research interviews, "but what if she hates me or turns other people against me?"

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Filed under: Gender • Girl Rising • Private schools • Voices
Indiana school vouchers upheld in ruling that could set precedent
Indiana's controversial school voucher program was upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.
March 27th, 2013
12:13 PM ET

Indiana school vouchers upheld in ruling that could set precedent

By Chris Boyette, CNN

(CNN) - In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools.

Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes, critics say, and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs.

Supporters say it gives families without financial means more options on where to educate their children.

However, opponents of the Indiana program had sued to block it, describing it as unconstitutional and saying it takes money from public schools.

Teresa Meredith, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and one of the plaintiffs, said she was "very disappointed in the ruling."

Unanimous ruling

As many as 9,000 students statewide are part of the voucher program and more than 80% use the funds to go to religious schools, according to Meredith.

But in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that was not an issue.

It said it did not matter that funds had been directed to religious schools as long as the state was not directly funding the education. The tuition, the court said, was being funded by the parents who chose to pay it with their vouchers.

"Whether the Indiana program is wise educational or public policy is not a consideration," Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote. The public funds "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."

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Filed under: Legal issues • Private schools • Religion • vouchers