No Girls Allowed

(A few years ago I went back to college. I won’t tell you how many years separated my freshman year at the University of California at Santa Barbara and my sophomore return in 2005. Let’s just say it was enough years to have a screenwriting career in Hollywood, meet and marry my husband, become a mother, and raise my two kids until they graduated from high school. After the two little ones became big people of their own, I decided to go back to UCSB and finish the final two years of academic work to get a B.A. It took me four years so that’ll give you an idea that it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. But I loved every minute of it. I wrote a lot of papers in that time, met some amazing twenty-something-year-olds, and embarked upon an adventure that I finally completed this week: I made a film. Here’s the story of how that film began…) 

Seven years ago I sat in a crowded lecture hall at UCSB and listened while a professor reminisced about being one of the first female students to attend an all-male public high school in Philadelphia. The school had practiced single sex education (for males only) for 147 years until 1983 when a court in Pennsylvania ordered the mandatory co-education of Central High School. I was used to seeing students during lecture text messaging, checking email on their laptops, or dozing during most lectures. But as the professor spoke openly and honestly about her first-year experiences (sometimes difficult) at Central High, the two hundred students around me sat in stunned and respectful silence. They were riveted by what she was telling them.

After the lecture, I went up to the professor and asked her if any books had ever been written about the gender integration of Central High. Public high schools are known to be coed, and yet, Central had avoided going coed until it was legally required as late as 1983. She confessed to me that nothing had ever been written about the case, or the women who were the first to attend Central.

“I think it might make an interesting documentary,” I suggested.

“Count me in!” she told me with a smile. And she was looking directly at me when she said it.

Me and my big mouth.

I went home that night and started researching. But no matter how many Google searches I did I couldn’t find anything about that 1983 Central High story that the professor had assured me had been front page news. Now I was intrigued. I decided to just keep digging by searching Philadelphia newspaper archives at UCSB’s Davidson Library. What I found in my months of research surprised, angered, enlightened, and convinced me that it was an amazing story that had to be told.

And film was the best way to tell it.

The Central High 6 in 1983

No Girls Allowed is a 50-minute documentary about the first young women who attended the all-male, academically elite Central High School in Philadelphia. It’s taken seven years to write, film, and edit.   To watch the trailer, click HERE: No Girls Allowed – Trailer.  You can now purchase a DVD of No Girls Allowed by going HERE: No Girls Allowed – DVD.

122 thoughts on “No Girls Allowed

  1. Thanks for making this available. It is very well done and a rather amazing story. One thought that struck me is that CHS went co-ed the year our daughter was born. You’ve captured the controversy and covered the issue with dignity and respect. You didn’t fall into the trap of stridency. I hope your audience grows beyond your blog.

    • It has been an amazing adventure doing this film. I’m happy that I can now share it with everyone. I’m proud of the women in the film for agreeing to talk about their experiences. Thanks for watching it, Wayne.

  2. Wonderful film, Darlene – once again you’ve opened my eyes to something I’d never heard about!! What a strange concept of having separate sex “Public” schools!! Now I’m curious to see if there were any in Canada!! btw, great to hear both you and Phil narrating parts of the film!

    • I was amazed when I started doing research on public schools and single sex education in the U.S.
      When public high schools began in the 19th century, gender segregation in American education was a way of life. But with the high rate of boys dropping out to go to work, leaving empty desks and limited funds, coed education soon became a better answer.By the end of the century only twelve cities out of 628 had single-sex public high schools. But gender segregation still remained legal until the 1970s when Title IX was passed by Congress. This law not only only allowed female athletes equal access to the playing fields; more importantly, Title IX made it illegal to discriminate in all aspects of education. In 1982 (when the Philadelphia School District was sued) Central High School was the last public high school in the country that only admitted boys.

  3. Great job on this, Darlene. What an interesting story- and to think it had yet to be uncovered is mind boggling! Wish I was in California to pick your brain on more great film ideas.

      • Thank you Darlene ! I was the second class of girls at Central . I am so so appreciative of what the girls before us went through so that all of us could have a chance to go to the best public school in Philadelphia. Your doco is very moving to me – i feel sadness for what was endured – especially for Nya – who is an absolutely beautiful , brilliant woman. I don’t think any of us girls were aware of what was happening to one another in terms of the teasing and the meanness that some of us endured.
        Thank you again

      • I liked what Nya said in the film: “We maybe should’ve bonded more, but we were very isolated. I don’t think we could find each other…I think that’s a real good way to control people.” Thanks for viewing the film and for commenting here.

  4. My mom wrote an article for the Mt. Airy Express where she interviewed some of the girls, and it was in part due to their thoughtfulness and moxie that she was happy for me to go to Central a few years later, where I joined the 251st class, the first that was 50/50 girls to boys. It was an incredible experience that I could not have appreciated at the time.

    I’m going to watch your film when I get a chance, but I do think it’s important to add that gender integration was possibly the best thing to ever happen to Central; and the worst thing to happen to Girls High. By the time I applied, Girls was already lagging in the quality and quantity of its applicants, and Girls never had the powerhouse alumni association that Central did due to gender discrimination in the workplace after GHS alumnae graduated.

    Of course, there was an alumni revolt over girls attending CHS (which you probably have in your film), extending to my Book teacher (homeroom), an alum, saying quite often to us girls, “You don’t belong here.”

    At the time, I didn’t give President Shelly Pavel a lot of credit, but now later in life, I realize he was a steady hand on the tiller, and a real leader who helped our school thrive throughout all the turmoil. Hey, we ladies helped him out by being excellent students, too. 251’s valedictorian and salutatorian were both girls, and both gave exceptional speeches.

    Thank you for telling the stories of our trailblazing Lancer sisters!

    • It was a privilege to make this film. Juliet Williams is the professor who briefly talked about attending Central in a Women’s Studies lecture at UCSB. I was so moved by what she said that I had to do research to find out more information. Sheldon Pavel was a real mensch when it came time to ask permission to film at the school. He said to me, “Anything you need, we’re here for you.” I was so impressed by the students at Central, and the overall philosophy of the school. And yes, you’re right about Central going coed hurting Girls High. I tried to get someone at that school to give us an interview but there was no reply. The all-girls high school is still in existence but struggles I think to get funds. Thanks for your comments, and I hope you enjoy watching the film.

      • I guess it isn’t by coincidence that Wild Bill Brooks is the teacher Juliet particularly recalled as difficult and he was also my book teacher.

        I posted this link on my FB, and my CHS friends recalled their own experiences with Wild Bill, and remembered his sexist attitude and words. So, Juliet, if you’re reading this, you are standing in for quite a few years’ worth of students who had to deal with his divisive behavior, and we’re glad to see you get a richly-deserved apology (or at least watch him backpedal in embarrassment). I had a support network of sympathetic friends and teachers who let me know he was not right, and you didn’t. I really feel for you that you were so alone in dealing with it, that all six of you were so alone in your school experiences, and I hope this doc can give administrators ideas about how to help students who are breaking barriers in their own schools extra support by hearing your experiences.

      • Darlene,

        If I remember correctly, wasn’t Juliet in fact Valedictorian? Truly amazing. More than just brains, but courage to continue and do your best when people around you are sending you signals and even verbalizing that don’t want you around!

      • Juliet was the first woman to give a valedictorian speech at Central High School in 1986. I believe that Rachel Gafni – one of the Central High 6 – was supposed to be Valedictorian at the 1984 graduation, but that never happened. As someone put it, “It’s one thing to let a girl come to our school, but we’ll be damned if we let one of them be our Valedictorian.”

      • Hi Darlene – just to set the record straight… The valedictorian for CHS 243 (1984) was an exceptional male student. However, the salutatorian that year was Jessie Bonn (also an exceptional student). In a “shocking” break from one of the time-honored traditions, most of which were deemed so vital to Central, the school decided that the second graduation speech should be given by the winner of an essay competition, rather than the salutatorian.

      • Thanks, Rachel, for clarifying that. Just so that I understand what you’re saying: Jessica Bonn (one of the Central High 6 girls – and one of the three girls who initiated the lawsuit against Central High) was salutatorian in 1984, and usually the salutatorian gives a speech; however, (in a break from Central High tradition) they let another student speak?

  5. This documentary was wonderful! As an alumnus (250 represent!) it was great to see the stories of the women who took the risk so that I could benefit. Ladies, thank you.

    And thank you, Darlene, for creating and sharing this!

  6. Great work! Thank you for this.

    That Mr.Brooks is a character. He is smart, tough, and frank (to your face). But his A.P. Chemistry does prepare you well, making my freshman chemistry at an elite college a breeze.

    Though I don’t think Central is as special as many alumni romanticized it to be; it’s not bad, a good local public high school. That’s about it. Not that big deal really…

    Class 250

    • An honest comment without any pretense. Thank you. Reading some of the comments was making my heart ache knowing what was truly going on at the school. And seeing Dr. Pavel called a “mensch” was akin to saying the devil has a benevolent heart.

  7. I was very lucky to be able to interview Mr. Brooks. His sequence really turned out to be a wonderful moment in the film. You never know how a documentary is going to play out, and the Mr. Brooks/ Juliet cinematic exchange is priceless.

    • BTW, Juliet Shouldn’t be offended. Mr.Brooks was an equal-opportunity offender, regardless of skin color, gender. His class is exactly like a college course in every aspect, not for weaker students. We need more demanding teachers like him in America, a lot more!!!

  8. Darlene,

    I am a graduate of the Class of 239, which was all male. I was vehemently opposed to the gender integration of Central back in the day, and while my position has surely softened (like Mr. Brooks) and I am proud of ALL of our alum, I still wish you would have given the subject a more balanced perspective.

    Perhaps the answer should have been “Girl’s High needs to be equal to Central in all areas: academically, athletically, socially, etc”. Your documentary ignores one essential argument; it is possible that single sex education, whether public or private, is better for the student. The research is split on whether it’s better, but it is unequivocal that single sex education does no harm, as long as all other things are equal. Many studies show it is beneficial. I know it was for me.

    So why no outrage that academically, Girl’s High was (and perhaps is) not as good as Central? Isn’t that the issue? Isn’t one possible answer that the community should have insisted that Girls High be brought up to snuff, and allowed both schools to thrive and retain their history and tradition?

    I have 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls, all of whom attend single sex schools. I can argue that my daughter’s school is the superior academic school, but they are so close it’s negligible. It’s a wonderful thing and I am grateful we have such great choices.

    I appreciate your film, thanks for doing it and telling our story.



    • I appreciate you viewing the film, and especially for commenting here. My intent as a filmmaker was to document the gender integration of Central High, and to highlight the stories and experiences of the first girls to attend the public high school. Examining the debate between single sex or coed education is an entirely different film that another filmmaker may want to investigate.

    • Joe:
      Amen to your post!. I was a senior at GHS (227) when this was taking place and was against what the 6 girls did. And, in fact, in this day and age, I am still against what they did but even more so with their approach. Reason being that Masterman HS could have well met their academic needs however, they chose to be in the spot light. When all is said and done, and in my personal view, the girls all needed attention – BADLY – and the ACLU helped them to get it. The entire fiasco was what modern day reality shows are – a claim for attention. My single sex education at GHS prepared me well for life and for great successes in the world. I will forever support single sex education that is fair and equal to its counterparts. And they were offered fair and equal options – please know that.

      I will agree with you that in the early 80’s GHS was starting to decline and their course offerings were not as strong as Central’s. However, the district offered the girls options and they chose to opt for an option that was not offered.

      What makes me very upset with this film is how the women still laugh about putting the flowers in the urinals. They are so very proud of their exploits. Very immature of them. I guess they still have not gotten over their minute of fame and are trying to relive their fabulous days of the 1983. This was not needed in the documentary, however, again it speaks very well as to the type of girls they were and still seem to be.

      Lastly, I wish that there were interviews to highlight how GHS students felt about this time. It may have helped to make the story one that is more widely understood. It may have helped for viewers to see whether or not there was more support for the girls than not at all, which seems to be implied in this film.

      When it all comes down to it, we all face multiple hurdles in the world every day – men and women. Many of us overcome gender hurdles on a daily basis, we break glass ceilings on a daily basis,honorably and without fanfare. We find workable solutions to our wants and desires and we don’t need the ACLU or a movie to let the world know about it. But again, I am not one of the original six who still need attention – and they need much attention – if they are still carrying on about it.


      Veronica Cendrowski-Ruf
      Philadelphia HS for Girls
      A very proud and successful member of the 227th graduating class

      • Why would you sign your comment “respectfully” after engaging in hateful name calling throughout your post? I understand you’re passionate about this but you do nothing to promote your ideas by the angry and accusatory language you use. Let me make this clear: It was my idea to document the story of the gender integration of Central High School. I do not work for the ACLU, and I do not know any of the Central High 6, or anyone else who has ever attended Central High School. I chose to point the camera in this direction, and after reaching out to Girls High and asking to speak to someone there, and not getting an email response in return, I concentrated exclusively on the Central High story. Is there a story about the effects of the 1983 gender integration on GHS? Yes, as I’ve said in these comments a number of times. I had limited funds to make this film – i.e. it came out of my own pocket. I held the camera, I did the interviews, I edited the tapes. It wasn’t easy to gather these women together and ask them to go on camera and talk about what they experienced. And you know why? Take a look in the mirror. Rational, reasonable discourse is always an important part of a conversation. The tone of your writing does nothing to help the promotion of single sex education. Or Girls High.

      • Darlene – FYI - I just want people to understand why Masterman was not the easy answer they all think it was. And i know it is in the past. i just want to address people’s assumptions. And I thought it might interest you since you did such a good job with the Central story. Thank you again, Nadja


      • I was in the second class of girls at Central High Schoo l- Class 245. I left Masterman after my sophmore year. I was so grateful to be admitted to Central midway through high school. I think one thing people may not be aware of about Masterman is that there was a teacher there who was molesting female students for quite a long time. Many of us escaped that situation by going to Girls High and Central. For me Central served my needs best because of the AP art program and the harp. I just want people to be aware of that as it seems to be forgotten or unaware of the environment at Masterman. I don’t think i am the only one who spent many years trying to shake off the demons from the experience there. Hearing that Masterman was the other option just isn’t realistic for many girls as they only accepted a small group of students each year and they tended to have already attended Masterman from fifth grade to ninth grade.
        I remain so grateful to Central for admitting me at a time that was crucial for me in my childhood, and grateful to the first girls who I feel were very brave to fight for equal footing in the Philadelphia public schools. Thank you.
        Nadja S. Gustafson
        ps for more about Masterman see Dale Mezzacappa’s article in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer.

      • Thank you for your “respectful” reply.

        Veronica Cendrowski-Ruf
        Philadelphia HS for Girls
        Still and always a very proud and successful member of the 227th graduating class

    • I am amazed that anyone still holds the opinion that it’s OK to have “separate but equal” public school education. If your daughters’ school is “the superior academic school,” good for your daughters’ school, but that’s irrelevant to the issue of Girls’ High and Central. Why, you, ask, no outrage that Girls’ High was not as good? Of course there was outrage – thus the years long struggle to admit girls to Central. Central was a better resourced school, in part due to the endowment, which was largely due to better jobs and higher salaries for graduates, which was a direct result of the old-boy network hiring fellow Central alumni – a network that was open only to males. If you don’t comprehend that this self-perpetuating system of institutional segregation was inherently unfair to female students, perhaps your daughters can explain it to you.
      Parents who do not have the resources to send their kids to private schools or move to an area with top notch public schools have only one way to ensure that their kids can get the best education possible, and that is to get their kids into the best magnet school available. Regarding your idea that “the community should have insisted that Girls (sic) High be brought up to snuff,” are you not as much a part of said community as the parents of girls who needed to get into Central in order to get a good education? Would you sit around and wait for a school to improve over time, insisting that it be brought up to snuff, while your kids are getting an inferior education? Clearly not. How would you deal with this situation if you didn’t have the money to send your kids to private school?

  9. I had heard a while back that someone was making a documentary on “girls coming to Central.” It’s awesome to see that it’s come to fruition. And as nicely as it has.

    When I was five, in 1986, my oldest sister entered Girls’ High. It was just two years after the first girls graduated from Central. Even without a Central grad in my family to argue for “tradition,” it was still foreign to my parents that girls would go anywhere other than Girls’ and boys anywhere other than Central. By the time I graduated from Central (258) in 1999, girls had been at Central for 15 years, had long-since represented 50% of the student body, and had all the same opportunities as the boys–from sports teams to bathrooms. It’s impressive to witness just how quickly a transformation can occur. From the alumni we constantly heard about what a novelty it was to have girls at the school, yet to us, as students, it was impossible to fathom anything else.

    I found it interesting that labeling the pioneer females as lesbians was so prevalent. I suppose the myopic equated feminist with lesbian, even if the young women hardly saw themselves as feminists to begin with. It’s ironic that such irrational comments were so widespread considering they came from boys at an all-boys school and were directed at girls who sought to join them.

    As far as Mr. Brooks goes, no one was spared. He should have kept a mop and bucket in the room to clean up all the tears his students shed. He is in no way malicious, just exceptionally critical. For the record, he often acknowledged that “girls saved Central” and that he was wrong to have questioned their ability.

    Congratulations on a job well done. This was a very intriguing documentary, and certainly one that was long overdue.

    — David, class president, 258

    • David… your class remains one of my favorite classes of Central. You guys were the only class I saw, when considered as a “group,” that was not mean-spirited. VERY few “folks” appreciated the intelligent, supportive, loving, tolerant, and beautiful spirit that was 258. I also think it was your class that statistically was one of the most brilliant classes to enter Central in quite a while [and I think it was also the one that made folks sit up and pay attention to the fact that (many) kids who were in the 95-plus percentile were flunking out, and to ask why].

  10. As a member of 271, and a female, I really enjoyed seeing how I got the opportunity to come to Central. I met an alumni this past year who was originally vehemently opposed to the entrance of women into Central, but he sat in on my MG Contemporary Issues class and afterward told us that his opinion on women at Central had been changed by those of us in the class.

    Central really is a community, a family, and an educational experience that one does not forget. I was rejected from Masterman for high school and left with the options of Girls, Central, or Fels. I would never want to go to an all girls school, or Fels. Central was, in the end, the best option and I have no regrets!

    THANK YOU, Central High 6!

    • I enjoyed your comments and I share your sentiments about Central. Although I enjoyed Central while I was there, I did not come to truly appreciate all that it provided me until the past few years. I remember my parents really wanted me to go to Girls’ High and although they ultimately gave me the choice between Central and Girls’ High, they promised to buy my a car when I turned 16 if I chose Girls’ High. Even at 13, I know what was the better educational choice even when my parents’ didn’t. By the time I graduated, they were happy with my decision and they advocate Central almost as much as I do.

      Kim 264

    • It helped that Conflicts was mainly all girls to start with 🙂
      Remember, we were the deciding factor in whether or not he was going to give Central funding.

      • Well, yeah! But since it was all girls, he could have seen that as a negative until we opened our mouths 🙂

  11. As a member of 242, I well remember the turmoil some felt. However some students at Girls High had been taking some courses at Central through the “Mentally Gifted” program during my time there including a class I took so there already was some precedence for females to attend there.

    Growing up in a very liberal environment and neighborhood, I was probably one of the few in the school prior to the 1983-84 school year to support the integration of the school (it also probably didn’t hurt that I knew half of “the Six” much of my life (Rachel, Jessica and Karen))

    Finding myself living in Los Angeles in September 1983, I was elated to find an A.P. photo of “the Six” taking up half of page 2 of the Los Angeles Times the day after they changed history.

  12. Darlene; I enjoyed revisiting that time in Central’s history. I became the President of Central’s Alumni in June, 1984, just as the first females (243) were graduating and served for four years as females became totally integrated in our school’s community. One of my first acts as President was to end the Alumni’s participation in an appeal that was ongoing. One of the important points that you did not highlight, was Central was in trouble prior to the suit. Enrollment was down to less then 1100 students, with a capacity of close to 2500. Also many of the current students really did not measure up to Central’s standards and after Dr. Pavel had become President in January, 1984 a good many were asked to seek enrollment in other schools .Today, I gladly report enrollment is close to 2400, and the student diversity is exceptional. There is close to a 50/50 breakdown according to sex.

    Chuck Steinberg, 221st Class

  13. Thanks for giving us that update on Central. It’s interesting to know that the high school’s enrollment was down when the girls were finally allowed to attend there. I think Mr. Brooks mentions something about that in the film: “If it weren’t for the girls I wouldn’t have had a roster that year.”

  14. Thank you for making this film.
    I am a female graduate of the class of 250 and when we entered Central in the fall of 1987, the story of the first six girls was known to all of us. I did not know their names, or faces or details of the story. I am so happy that you made this film and I am so proud to have followed in their foot steps.
    Central is and was a better school than Girls High. I was drawn to Central for the high level of math and science education and even had Mr.Brooks as a teacher. As one poster already stated, Juliette should not be offended. He was like that to everyone. Boys and girls alike. It was just his way.
    Thanks again!

  15. Well done! Even for someone who was there at the time (I was in the last class at Central to start all male) I was not acutely aware of what these women were going through. While I was not particularly against the integration of women into the school, I’m sure I participated in some of the harassment–it is disturbing how easy it is to pick on the “other” even when you have been brought up believing it is wrong… Like Mr. Brooks, I’ll offer a belated apology.

    One note, however. The “slurping noise” described by Julliet was used to harass students appearing to suck-up to a teacher before girls arrived at the school. It was crass and surprisingly anti-intellectual for an “elite school,” but it was not a gender harassment. Of course, this is not to say that it’s practice did not pile on to the girls who were already being harassed in other ways as well.
    As I think about it, it occurs to me that this type of crass behavior was one of the things boys feared that gender desegregation would end. It probably did, after a few years…

  16. Hi there,

    I am a member of 250, and my sister was 247 and graduated in 1988. We moved to Philadelphia the summer before her junior year, and it didn’t even occur to our family that she wouldn’t go to Central. At that point, the gender breakdown of the school was approximately 60/40 male/female, and while it would be difficult for anyone to start a new high school in one’s junior year, I do wonder if it was worse for her because the school was still in transition.

    For me, though, it was 50/50 during my tenure at Central, and it was just another (really excellent) high school. The biggest challenges that the school seemed to be going through at the time was racially and perhaps religiously motivated—the gospel choir and its Christian messages “versus” the concert choir that was a part of the music department, for example. It almost didn’t occur to me, by the time I graduated in 1991, to wonder about any gender bias in the basic school day, except for inserting “and daughters” into the school song!

    Thank you for bringing the struggle of The Six, and helping me to remember that “thy sons and daughters will [and continue to] labor for thee, oh dear old high.”

  17. Wow, can you say biased. To keep referring to the educational tradition of two public schools that were more concerned with academics than appeasing some spoiled brats that had to have their way is beyond disconcerting. Where was the injustice here? If the girls were so concerned about the lack of academic standards of GHS, then why did they allow this substandard education to continue? No, this wasn’t about segregation but about the selfishness of a couple of girls who parents never taught them that sometimes in life, you don’t get your way. This was the worst thing to ever happen to both GHS and Central. I find it interesting that not one study was cited in terms of single sexed education and its pros or cons. No this was a look at the poor woman who can’t get her way and how the big bad male world is treating her. To portray GHS as if it was some homemaker in training boarding school is beyond being out of touch with reality; it is criminal and an insult to the hard working woman who left GHS and either attended Ivy League schools or became doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc. I pray the next time you decide to make a film that you try researching all sides of the story and not just the side that benefits your allegory. How about the generations of boys from low income families that will never get an opportunity to acquire the benefits of a private education? Have you done any studies to see how this infiltration has changed CHS’s standard, rating or culture? I have spoken to teachers who were there before and after; and all have stated that CHS is not the bastion of academia that it used to be; because anytime you bring in the opposite sex, you bring in a distraction. Instead of trying to make us feel pity for these women, you should have discussed who had to pay for the accommodations that came along with changing the school from all boys to a co-educational facility. If GHS was such a terrible school, I don’t understand why these females allowed it to exist. Where was their outrage if this was truly about the inequalities of education in these two domiciles? GHS and Central were a family and only an outsider to a family would think that destroying that family is a good thing. This was not progress, but a back slip, with the losers being the future generations of students who will never know the camaraderie that used to exist within these two schools. If Central was the better school, it was because their alumni base was stronger and more active. You don’t tear down the school, because their former students give more, you encourage the school whose alumni base was lacking. Central will never be the rite of passage for some inner city male genius whose family can’t afford to send him to a private school; but just so long as a couple of females whose families could have sent them to private schools get their way, then that is all that is important. Go progress! (or shall I say regress)

      • Just like you did in your film, don’t discuss the real issues, just vilify anyone who disagrees with you. No one addressed also that if your grades were good enough you could as a female take classes at Central (and visa versa), so no one was being deprived of anything. The only losers here are the current students who now attend schools, which both are substandard when compared to what they used to be. If you check the ratings now, both GHS and CHS are no longer the power house educational institutions that they used to be.

    • Another issue that was not addressed was the fact that Central was receiving much more private funding than Girls’ High based on the success of male alumni who reaped the benefits of the institutionalized sexism that exists in the work force, therefore allowing huge financial disparities for the two schools.

    • Good lord…I just had to address this: “the selfishness of a couple of girls who parents never taught them that sometimes in life, you don’t get your way.”

      Perhaps, instead, their parents taught them that when something’s wrong, you don’t stop until it’s changed. What an absurdly narrow and wrong view of the world you have. Shame on you if you ARE a CHS graduate.

      Additionally, there is NO scientifically valid research suggesting same-sex education is better than co-ed. None. Nada. Zip. There’s plenty of pseudoscience that’s brought out every time advocates of same sex want to force their Bronze Age view of the world onto the rest of us, but it never stands up to rigorous scrutiny. Again, shame on you if you’re a CHS graduate.

      Darlene, really looking forward to watching this. As a member of the 246, the first class to have girls from day one, I remember those days well. I remember sitting in Dr. Hughes Biology class on the 4th floor when all of the boys walked out of class and began chanting outside the school in protest and wondering…”Um, there’s girls here now. WTF is wrong with you guys?!”

      The only reason I chose Central was it was my only viable choice. It was either Central, Cardinal Dougherty or Olney. As I was done with Catholicism at that point, and Olney was a death trap, I was overwhelmed with joy…well, teenage male hormones and joy…to learn CHS was going co-ed. I feel it in no way diminished my experience, and am grateful to the 6 for their hard work. I am who I am today because of Central, and I have a lot to be proud of because of it.

      • So, if there is no credible study debunking single sexed education, why do you call it wrong? Wrong, based on what? GHS and CHS had a symbiotic relationship that was lost and that is the point. Neither school is the academic powerhouse that it used to be. What is wrong with girls and boys enjoying being themselves without having to deal with the opposite sex for 7 hours a day? We supported each other in so many ways, we were a brother and sister school. What was wrong with that? If you grades were good enough you could attend either school’s offerings that weren’t offered at the other school. So, just what was the problem. The problem is that neither school is as good as it used to be. Period.

      • Apparently, you’re not a graduate of Central or you’d have better reading comprehension. I’m not sure how you got “there is no credible study debunking single sexed education” from “there is NO scientifically valid research suggesting same-sex education is better than co-ed”.

        “What is wrong with girls and boys enjoying being themselves without having to deal with the opposite sex for 7 hours a day?”

        Nothing at all, but if you’re trying to make the argument that their education will be better because of it, all of the evidence says otherwise. You’re arguing that the universe conform to your beliefs, and it’s not obliged to do that.

        “We supported each other in so many ways, we were a brother and sister school. What was wrong with that?”

        It’s archaic and produces no benefits? CHS graduates had better opportunities and access to higher amounts of scholarship monies than GHS grads?

        “If you grades were good enough you could attend either school’s offerings that weren’t offered at the other school.”

        So? You still couldn’t get a CHS diploma from GHS. THAT is what they wanted.

        “The problem is that neither school is as good as it used to be.”

        Oh, please, enough with the “let’s remember the good ol’ days” bull. I’m not even going into the nostalgia. I will however ask: in another comment, you said Masterman is now exceeding on all metrics compared to GHS & CHS and is by far the better school*. How is that possible since Masterman is co-ed? And, GHS is still girls-only, right? Based on your logic, GHS should be the brightest star in the Philly school system, but by your admission a co-ed school is kicking its ass. How do you account for that cognitive dissonance?

        *Like it matters. Kids are still going to get infinitely better educations at any of those three schools compared to those in other schools around the district. THAT is the REAL problem: that only a subset of kids has access to quality education.

    • If you are a Central graduate you should be ashamed of yourself. I am a graduate of the 265th graduating class and I cannot imagine the school without the female student population. Central was and is the best academic option for students in Philadelphia, and therefore should be open to ALL who wish to attend. Your argument that women are a distraction to learning is a cop out. I think the real reason that so many male students were against this is because they were afraid the girls would excel in the academic and extra-curricular arenas at Central. Your views are narrow and discriminatory, and they have no place at Central.

      • If you are going to debate me, READ what I wrote. I didn’t say women were a distraction. I said the opposite sex, be it male or female in an all female or all male school is a distraction. If you are human with a brain, you shouldn’t need a study to verify that fact. Both schools are no long the academic powerhouses that they used to be. Masterman and CHS used to fight for 1 and 2 rankings in the city, not anymore. Masterman has nothing to fear from Central anymore, according to many national school ranking surveys. You call that progress, no you should be ashamed. Hiding behind this issue like there was some real discrimination done to women at CHS. Central was a great opportunity for men to learn not only about academics, but life as well. Being a well rounded student has to do with life lessons, too. Lessons that males can’t learn around females and visa versa.

  18. Thank you for your documentation of this story. I am a Girl’s High graduate class 226 ( 1982), with a tradition of a grandfather who went to Central in the 30’s. I have mixed feelings , as a woman I know how important it is for us to have equal opportunity and to be able to choose without barriers what path we want to take, but on the other hand I have great love for Girl’s High, its traditions and its relationship it had with Central before the the integration of sexes. I can’t help but feel sad that Girl’s High was compromised in this whole change.

  19. Thank you for creating this! I’ve always wondered what happened to these 6 women! I am a proud (female) alum and am indebted to them for being able to enjoy such a great high school experience.

  20. This past school year, as a senior at Central High, I met Dr. Philip Frost. He was one of the many alumni who was convinced girls should not be allowed to attend Central. After he sat in on my Contemporary Issues G class taught by Mr. Hung, Dr. Frost spoke to us and said that he realized how much better the school is with girls.

  21. I am a male graduate of the 265th graduating class (2006) of Central high school. Thank you for making this documentary. I had never imagined the challenge that the Central 6 had endured when breaking the male only tradition. I guess I just assumed that they were welcomed into the school because I myself cannot imagine the school without the female student population. To me the diversity present within the school is one of the major aspects that made it such an enriching experience academically and socially. That diversity of course coming from the various ethnicities represented, as well as the presence of female and male students.

    I hope the Central 6 know that while some alumni that attended the school before 1983 may still hold a grudge, those of us that graduated after 1983 (male and female) are grateful that they had the courage to challenge tradition and help make Central the progressive and diverse institution that I am proud to have attended.

    P.S as soon as Juliet mentioned a chemistry teacher that was rude and refused to let her into his class, I knew she was talking about Mr. Brooks.

  22. I came across this because the Central Facebook page shared the link.
    I enjoyed watching the documentary, and honestly, I learned from it. I went to Central (269), and sadly, I learned more about the history of women at Central from the documentary than I did from attending Central for four years. I have a greater sense of respect and appreciation for it now that I see how much the first women struggled to stay there.
    My boss was 224, and he was actually just recently telling me about a letter he wrote to the Central President at the time of the controversy. Someone at Central was digging through the archives and actually found it a couple weeks ago and sent him a copy.
    Anyway, thanks for the documentary.

  23. This film touched me and surprised me in doing so, as I thought I knew the story well already. Turns out I really didn’t. I was among the first class of freshman girls admitted to Central in the fall of ’84 for a full school year (class 247) and my experience was markedly different from those brave girls who toughed out that first year in ’83/84. We had over 100 girls in our class (I believe the total incoming class was in the 600 range) and there were probably another 30 or so girls who matriculated in the higher grades that fall too. (I don’t recall exact numbers.) Though we were still quite the minority, perhaps our numbers were enough to quell some of the hostility. Maybe the boys had already had a year to get used to their new reality. I can’t say for certain.

    Central was a great experience for me. Most people I know take pride in having hated their high school but I have extremely fond memories of Central. I got a top-flight education, was well-prepared for college, and had the privilege of attending classes with a varied group of fantastic people. Dr. Pavel was an exceptional president and truly did turn Central around. Another poster above mentioned the crucial fact that Central enrollment was down and academic performance was down as well. This change in admission policy had a rather undeniable positive effect on the academic quality of the applicants. By doubling the qualifying pool, there was an upswing in competition to attend the school.

    Another point… In our time, it was openly discussed that boys didn’t want to attend a school with a name like “Girls’ High”. To this day, I question the validity of leaving that school’s name intact — thereby discouraging male attendance — and I wonder why the two schools do not just combine and give the girls AND boys of the city of Philadelphia a truly equal opportunity to attend a school with a legendary tradition. I’ve had to live with such a change as an alumna already… my girls’ school within Tulane University, Newcomb College, was combined with the boy’s A&S school after Hurricane Katrina. It was disconcerting, but life went on.

    Thank you for making the film and giving us all something to think about and discuss.

    • It was important to me that the perspective of male students who were against girls attending Central be represented in the film. Thanks to Darren Polish for agreeing to be interviewed, and for attending the lecture at UCLA where he was able to meet three of the women who were the first to attend CHS.

  24. Darlene,
    Thank you for shedding light on this story. I attended The Philadelphia High School for Girls (229 class of 1985) during the time of the “court case.” I am very proud and extremely satisfied with the education I received at Girls’ High. The reputation for being a Girls’ High graduate, as well as a Central graduate was, and I believe still is, outstanding and highly regarded. Given the choice, I am not sure I would have chosen Central over Girls’ High. I am wondering why you did not interview any of the Girls’ High students who decided to remain at their school? Would you consider doing so as a follow-up to this story?
    I actually remember the day of the “walkout.” There were boys who were mobilizing the walkout who actually tried to talk some of us girls into walking out too. I also remember being told to wear sneakers during those days…at the time I couldn’t imagine why. Now I understand after hearing what the Central High 6 went through!

    Thank you for a wonderful documentary. Well done!

    E. Angelo-Rantuccio, MA

    • As I mentioned in a previous comment: I contacted Girls High and wanted to interview a representative of the school, but that never happened. We only had one week to film in Philadelphia, and that also included interviewing Susan Vorchheimer who was living in New Jersey at the time. Maybe the perspective of Girls High, and examining single sex education might make for a good second film.

      • Thank you! (I apologize for having missed that in your previous comment!) I applaud your work and how you captured a side of the story that the Central High 6 experienced that I was unaware at the time. Watching the interviews and clips brought me back in time! An excellent depiction of what I do remember!

  25. Elizabeth,

    I’m the one who needs to apologize to YOU. So many people have responded to the film – online and via email – and I must have made that comment offline. I contacted Girls High at one point, and at first, I didn’t hear back. And then, finally, someone wrote me a brief email from the school, but our film crew was already back in California. When I sat down to look at our footage, I realized that the heart of the story was there with the girls who were the first to attend Central in a very hostile climate. I was awestruck by their tenacity and raw courage. And I was also moved by their sense of humility. I decided to focus exclusively on their stories, and I knew that I didn’t want the documentary to run longer than 45 – 50 minutes. There is definitely a story in how the 1983 court ruling affected Girls High.

  26. I just wanted to say thank you for making this film. When I attended Central, the girls there knew of the famous Central 6, but we never knew the details behind their story. One day, I’d like to personally thank the 6 women for opening the doors for women like me to come to Central.

    Tsagan (259)

  27. Hi there!
    Just wanted to thank you for making this, as an alumna of 261 (class of 2002), I am so proud to see this story told. I’ve shared it with many friends and family.

  28. Thank you so much for making this film. It truly is remarkable what these women did, and I am grateful that they paved the way for the rest of us. Central still is an amazing school, and I can say that after having completed my studies there as a student, and after having completed my student teaching there. I accredit my success as a teacher and writer to my education, and I couldn’t have done it without the women who took a chance and opened the doors for me. Thank you again! (262)

  29. Darlene, what a wonderful video! Your truly did a remarkable job – the questions, answers, presentation, information, etc., etc., etc. was right on target for the film’s purpose. That was truly a monumental time in history!

  30. Darlene, it’s so good to finally see your vision brought to fruition. You and your team have created a wonderful documentary. Thank you for all your hard work. I am excited to be able to share it with my friends and family. The experience of being in your film was a lot more pleasant than the experience of trying to get into Central! Love, “Susan Vorchheimer”

  31. Well Darlene, did you that Girls high which was the sister school to Central and right up the street is still a single sex school for women. The case was just to allow Central to open up for women but men are still not allowed at what was the Central equivalent. I have not watched your story yet, but I am looking forward to it

  32. Thank you for this film. I never realized what a difficult time these women had at Central. I walked through the doors of Central as a freshman a mere three years later and I never felt like I wasn’t welcome because of my gender. I am filled with gratitude to these brave pioneering women. 249!!!!

  33. I attended Girls High during the case. It was hard for us at GHS – to hear we were broken, and that our education wasn’t on par with CHS. That we were inferior. We’d enjoyed a long history of being the top all-male and all-female schools around. My father went to Central and was so proud when I started at Girls. I was proud to continue in the tradition. That’s how I saw it, as following in his footsteps. I am a woman (and a minority) and I fight for equal rights, but I still feel so conflicted over what happened that year and how it changed my school’s legacy and value forever. Your documentary was very well done, though I do wish you’d been able to speak to some of the Girls High girls that opposed the case, that loved GHS, loved the education/experience.

  34. Then will you tell the names of the boys that are currently enrolled in The Philadelphia High School for Girls ( Girls High) . I will bet you can’t because there aren’t any.

    • Hi, Drew – thanks for leaving this comment. I’ve addressed this before in this thread: I’m not aware that any male students have ever tried to attend Girls High. If you know of any, please come back here and tell me. There is a discussion about this in the film.

  35. Many thanks to Nadja Simon Gustafson for giving some context to the Central story, by revealing the extensive abuse by teacher Stephen Jones within the music program at Masterman at the time. The 1991 article in the Inquirer does not even begin to give this story justice. I think that the situation at Masterman had a significant impact on the choices some of us made to attend Central. The Masterman story is worthy of a film in and of itself.

  36. Wow, as an old school Central Alum (233 rules!) and as a woman now, this film certainly made me revisit a lot of my feelings on the coed issue, and I have to admit to being quite conflicted. My views have evolved over time, (as have I !), but are still somewhat unresolved.

    I appreciate you making this film and documenting the struggle of that first year, I feel horrible that these 6 girls were treated so badly, and am quite embarrassed at the behavior of some of my fellow alumni. The transition was clearly not handled very well and should have been thought out and executed much better by staff. I knew before his name was mentioned that the Chem teacher was Wild Bill Brooks; he was even more of a character in the ’70s. I could relate a number of stories from our class that would justify his nickname.

    Certainly I would never deny any young woman in Phila. the educational opportunity I had at Central, and was surprised in fact that the court ruled that Girls HS wasn’t as good. I think that at the time, we honestly believed that the girls were getting just as good an education down the street, just in a different building. If in fact, there was an inequity, clearly that need to be addressed and I can’t argue that making the school coed wasn’t a reasonable solution.

    When I think back at moving on from coed Masterman Jr High though, I recall feeling quite relieved at going to single gendered Central High School. I was happy to leave behind a lot of baggage revolving around dating, popularity, and social cliques so that I could concentrate on my studies. It’s easy to attribute that to my own gender issues, but I think that a lot of adolescent boys have difficulty dealing with both the academic and social pressures in the same setting. Social missteps that happen outside of school may remain private, but ones that occur inside the campus can get repeated and magnified to the point of cruelty.

    The fact that Central is now coed and Girls High is still all girls troubles me a bit as well; it feels like a bit of a double standard. Boys have to go to a coed school but girls still get to choose to attend a single gendered setting. It goes against my sense of fairness; that a choice was taken away from the boys but not the girls. I really expected that both schools would have merged after the court decision, and think that it’s odd that one school got to retain it’s identity while the other was forced to change. Certainly when I walked down Olney Ave every day and passed “The Philadelphia High School for Girls” it read to me like “No Boys Allowed” and that hasn’t changed. Although now I suppose they would let me in. 😉

    No doubt some in my own alumni class feel the same way about me, that I have fundamentally changed our group by making it coed. Certainly I received a number of different responses at our last reunion, none overtly negative and some surprisingly positive.

    I do wish that there had been some more discussion with alumni who have some thoughtful things to say on the subject included in the film, there was and is another side to the issue. Although my sympathies do for the most part lie with the Central 6, even for me it is still difficult for an old Lancer to be completely comfortable with the change.

    Thanks again for making this film. It is a story that is worth telling.
    Mrs. Madrigal

  37. I look forward to seeing your film. Like AAmaz0n, I was a member of the 233. I did well in English and won a couple of the prizes in the subject, and I remember the AP English teacher, Bert Barsky, inviting me in my senior year to write a speech to submit to whatever secret star-chamber decided who should give the graduation speeches. (I think that the lead speech was always given by the student with the highest GPA — which sure wasn’t me — and an essay contest determined the second-banana. But I couldn’t swear to it.) I wrote a speech that called for ending male-only education at CHS. I was a bit of a smartass and, like my classmate AAmazon, I was working out my own gender-issues, sometimes in the assignments I wrote for Barsky’s class. So maybe that made me more sympathetic to the issue than most kids. Barsky was a brilliant teacher and obviously sympathetic, but I remember him reading the essay and telling me “they will never allow you to give this speech” — whoever “they” were. He was right, of course. Though it might have been simply because I had written a crappy speech — d’yuh think?

  38. Susan Vorcheimer was scheduled to be in my 11th grade math class with the infamous Dr. Grace Curran. I can see the eggs rolling down the aisle…….Having students grade exams is never a good idea.

  39. Pingback: No Girls Allowed (2013 UPDATE) | Darlene Craviotto

  40. I am a male who applied to both Central and Girl’s High for admission in the Fall of 1985. Didn’t get into Girl’s High (don’t even recall getting a response) but I did get into Central and graduated in 1988.

      • Slow response… Frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d get into Central! I was concerned that my grades were not high enough. And I guess part of it was me wanting to see what would happen, since girls were then accepted to Central, why not also try to push on barriers at Girl’s High?

  41. Pingback: It All Begins With A Screenwriter | Darlene Craviotto

  42. Hi Darlene;
    Thank you for checking out my blog. No Girls Allowed seems like a fascinating film and I look forward to seeing it soon. From the trail of comments I just looked through, it seems like you have people very involved in coming to terms with this topic, always a great indicator in the documentary field! Rick

  43. My dad was a very well liked and respected teacher at Central High for many years. He did not believe in the integration of girls into the school. He felt that boys did much better academically without the distraction of girls in the classroom. He thought that overall, girls did better academically than boys until high school, when the boys matured and caught up :-). I, myself, went to Girls High. I had an excellent college preparatory education and did not feel that I lacked anything academically that was provided by Central High School. I was grateful to have the choice of going there and receiving the excellent education I did. My sister wanted a co-ed environment and so she went to Olney after only one semester at Girls High. I believe she received an excellent education as well. I think everyone should have the right to choose as to whether they want to attend a co-ed school or not. Now that I have moved to New York, that choice does not exist in my area – alsom there are also no specific public schools geared to college preparation – maybe I am old school but I find that to be a sad situation.

  44. Dear Darlene and others reading her post and blog,
    In my opinion, the whole point of these girls suing to go to an “all-male” school is that it was a PUBLIC school, not that it had or didn’t have a better curriculum, better teachers (i.e. better tenure to attract better teachers). For this high school to continue to ban the attendance of female students while accepting public funds was a violation of Federal law, pure and simple. This is again, in my opinion, the reason for the suit and the controversy. If Central High had been a private school, then the segregation issue would never have come up. Unless the school district and State had made legal provisions to circumvent the law, then Central’s leadership and the school district’s Board, and hence the State government were complicit in violating Federal law.
    I agree that there is plenty of research and facts to validate gender segregation [and I do use the term “gender” in the modern sense, rather than the out-dated definition of strictly male sex (XY chromosome) and female sex (XX chromosome)] in as far as that segregation relates to student classroom etiquette, behavior, and overall academic performance. Again, these facts are not really in question, it is the breaking of the law that IS.
    Anyone who argues that breaking the law to further better education is using an “ends justifies the means” reason. Adolf Hitler, Muammar Qadifi, and any other bigoted dictator and denier of civil rights have used the same type of argument to justify wrong and ugly behavior and thinking. Does this analysis offend you, those of you who hold to that kind of justification? Good, it should. I do hope you can overcome your cognitive dissonance. Otherwise, the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States mean nothing, and Thomas Hobbes in The Leviathan was absolutely correct.

  45. Wow,I know Dr Williams, too and when she told me the story I thought the same thing you did. Kudos for having the grapes to follow through! I will certainly check out the film.

  46. Pingback: Honoring the Girls of Central High | Darlene Craviotto

  47. I was part of class 233 at CHS. Yes, back when it was all male. I came across this page while doing a randomly occurring search for Mr. Chester Plummer who was the first teacher who made Shakespeare come alive for me. Were it not for him I believe my career path as an entertainer would have been completely different. I also had Wild Bill Brooks, who would tell a student exactly what he was thinking in no uncertain terms. I can still remember him looking at me on several occasions and saying “You’re an idiot”. He would always explain why if I was interested. He and I kept in contact for several years after I graduated. Used to always look for him at the Thanksgiving Day game with NE high.

    The school was filled with passionate professionals in every discipline who, to paraphrase Cicero, did not consider education as the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. There was something special about Central which it probably still retains to this day.

    When the first suit was brought I felt “What’s the big deal?” after all there was Girls High. Also I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to worry about what I wore or looked like because it was all boys. Of course this also meant that here were a lot of unwashed students in the halls. Then I listened to the arguments. It wasn’t just the quality of the education that was being discussed, it was also the lifetime connections that people made there which helped them in life and in their careers. This was part of the argument that finally allowed women in The Union Club on Broad Street. Personally, I believe that Central benefitted more from the inclusion of female students than most people realize.

    Thank you for taking on this project. When I clicked on the links provided tho there was only an error message. I will look for it tho…

    • Thanks for leaving me your comment. It’s always interesting to hear from Central High alumni who share their memories of the school. We went there for a week when we filmed the documentary and I was blown away by what a special high school it is. I especially liked that everyone was so open and honest about the days when the school was exclusively all-male. I expected some “push back” and there was none. As a matter of fact, the current students were fascinated with the fact that at one time there weren’t any girls attending Central. They all kept saying, “I can’t imagine Central without girls!”

      • I’m certain that if I were a student there now I would feel exactly the same way! That too is part of the human experience. We get used to things as they are and tend to resist change even tho it is inevitable. Children who are raised in this era cannot imagine life without a digital device connecting them to their world. The fact that theirs’ is the 1st truly digital generation doesn’t mean anything to them. Same for a child raised by one parent – they cannot imagine what having another would be like – to them that is the way of their world.

        The thing about the vast majority of people educated at Central is that we are mentally flexible, we adapt and usually rather quickly. That may sound full of hubris in light of the response to the first class of girls but I would be surprised if the second and third class, who arrived as freshmen to the school, felt as socially and emotionally ostracized. I hope your experience in the filming of your piece showed this.

        As for Central being special, it is. The opening line of the school song says it best, “Let others sing of college days, their alma mater true, but when we raise our voices, ’tis only, High, for you.” Central is special to people who go there or are alumni by the fact that it’s a school filled with students who are intelligent and who WANT to be there; nurtured by a faculty that actually cares about their students more so than one would expect. It becomes to almost all who are fortunate attend – a school and experience that is, to quote Duke Ellington, “Beyond category”.

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