Lawsuit claims gender bias in leadership program at a Cherry Hill elementary school

David Madden
January 06, 2020 - 4:30 am
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CHERRY HILL, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A class action suit will be considered in New Jersey Superior Court over a program at one Cherry Hill public school that helps students build leadership skills. Plaintiffs contend there's a gender bias involved.

The WATCH program at Clara Barton Elementary aims to help 5th graders not only prepare for middle school, but the challenges of life in general. There's just one problem.

"It was run only for boys and girls were not permitted to partake," Mount Laurel attorney Kevin Costello told KYW Newsradio. "We determined that that was illegal under New Jersey anti-discrimination law and so we commenced this action to address it."

The parents of two young girls hired Costello to take the matter to Camden County Court.

A judge granted class action status to the lawsuit, which includes some 160 young girls who attended Barton dating back to 2014.

Two years ago, the district established a similar program called Girls Incorporated.

"Although the programs purport to be equal, we do not believe that they are equal," Costello added. "In fact, they shouldn't be separate. The leadership training should be for all students."

The Cherry Hill School District issued a statement saying the Barton principal set up different programs because "boys and girls sometimes have different social and emotional needs that are best met in single sex environments". They call the lawsuit's claims unfounded and insist only the one family that filed the action has complained.