No Girls Allowed

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(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.