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VORCHHEIMER v. SCHOOL DIST. OF PHILADELPHIA

August 7, 1975

SUSAN LYNN VORCHHEIMER, by her parents BERT and CAROL VORCHHEIMER, Guardians ad litem
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA and MATTHEW W. COSTANZO, Superintendent School District of Philadelphia



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 Newcomer, J.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiff, Susan Lynn Vorchheimer, 15 years old, is a female citizen of the United States of America. She resides with her parents at 9721 Chapel Road, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. This suit is brought on her behalf by her parents, Bert and Carol Vorchheimer, as guardians ad litem.

 2. Defendant School District of Pennsylvania is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which has the responsibility for carrying out the Commonwealth's program of public education in and for the City and County of Philadelphia.

 3. Defendant Matthew W. Costanzo is the Superintendent of Schools of the School District of Philadelphia and is sued in his official capacity.

 4. In November of 1973, while plaintiff was a ninth grade student at the J.R. Masterman School, a junior high school, plaintiff's parents received a communication from Masterman's principal concerning the various types of senior high schools available to their daughter.

 5. This communication listed four types of senior high schools: comprehensive, technical, academic, and "magnet". The two high schools listed under the academic category were Philadelphia High School for Girls and Central High School.

 6. This communication stated that "there are specific requirements for admission to [the academic] schools". The communication described these requirements as:

 
" Tests -- to be fully qualified a pupil must present a minimum score of 82 percentile, national composite score in the most recent Iowa Tests.
 
Achievement -- Must present a record of all "A's" and "B's" with not more than one "C" in any major subject for a full year prior to admission. Marks considered are those from the previous June together with those on the second and subsequent reports of the current school year."

 7. Central High School and Girls High (Philadelphia High School for Girls) are the only two academic schools within the Philadelphia School District. These two schools are the only high schools in the Philadelphia School District which draw their student bodies from the entire city. Only 7% of the students in the entire Philadelphia School District are able to meet Central and Girls High admission standards.

 8. Both Central and Girls are single sex schools, Central's student body being exclusively male and Girls exclusively female. This segregation by sex has continued, with brief exceptions, since the founding of the two schools and represents the official policy of the Philadelphia School Board.

 9. Admission to a comprehensive senior high school is normally based upon a student's residence, i.e., students usually attend the comprehensive high school located in their neighborhood.

 10. During December, 1973 and January, 1974, Susan Vorchheimer visited a number of senior high schools in the Philadelphia School District. One school which she visited was George Washington High School, a comprehensive high school which is located in her neighborhood. She also visited Central High School and Girls High.

 11. Based on her observations during these visits, and on her past experience in Philadelphia's public schools, plaintiff decided that she wished to attend Central High School. She rejected the idea of attending Girls High School because, in her words:

 
"I . . . visited Girls and sat in on one of the classes and walked around and I just didn't like the impression it gave me. I didn't think I would be able to go there for three years and not be harmed in any way by it."

 12. On or about January 11, 1974, plaintiff's father submitted on her behalf an application for admission to Central High School for the following year, which application was in accordance with the procedural requirements of defendants' school system. It is undisputed that plaintiff met Central's academic admission requirements.

 13. Masterman School is, like Central and Girls, an academic school. It requires that prospective students meet certain admission criteria before they can be admitted. However, Masterman School only offers instruction through the ninth grade.

 14. Upon graduating from Masterman, plaintiff received six awards; the award in English, history, science, and geometry, the American Legion award for citizenship and scholarship, and the most outstanding student award.

 15. On or about February 1, 1974, plaintiff's application for admission to Central High School was rejected solely on the basis of her sex.

 16. Plaintiff is currently in the tenth grade at George Washington High School. Her motivation to achieve good grades has declined, due in part to plaintiff's perception that her teachers expect and demand less work than was expected or demanded at Masterman. Consequently, her grade performance has slipped from its previous level at Masterman.

 17. Central High School was founded in 1836 as the first public high school in Philadelphia and the second public high school in the United States. Beginning as a small academic high school with a faculty of four and a student body of 63, Central has consistently maintained a reputation for academic excellence even though it temporarily changed from an academic to a comprehensive high school with an enrollment of 4,000 students around the beginning of the twentieth century. During the nineteenth century members of its faculty were nationally known physicists and English stylists. Its graduates have risen to the top of the business world, the professions, politics, and academia. In February, 1939, after various revisions in its curriculum, Central resumed its original character as an academic high school and opened its new building with 41 faculty members and 1,250 students. At the present time Central has a faculty of over 100 and an enrollment of nearly 2,000.

 18. Girls High was organized as an academic high school for females in 1893, having evolved from a school established in 1848 whose primary purpose was to train teachers for the Philadelphia public schools. While the school began by offering commercial, teacher training, and college-preparatory courses, the college-preparatory curriculum quickly overshadowed the other two. By 1910, Girls High was exclusively college preparatory. It has fulfilled the vision of many nineteenth century educators, both men and women, by becoming the equal of Central in preparing its students for college.

 19. Many men who are currently prominent in the professional, political, and cultural life of this city and state are graduates of Central. Central has a deserved reputation for training men who will become local and national leaders in all fields of endeavor.

 20. Central's academic standing and its reputation as a training ground for community leaders has attracted the attention of national leaders throughout Central's history. In 1842 President Polk visited the school. In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt visited the school to make a speech in which he told Central's students "Don't flinch, don't foul, and hit the hard line." More recently, then Attorney General Robert Kennedy addressed Central's Alumni Association and 200 student leaders in 1964, and then Vice-President Hubert Humphrey received an award at the school in 1966. The visits of the latter two men were arranged through the auspices of the Barnwell Foundation, which was established by a Central alumnus.

 21. The Alumni Association of Central High School is an influential group in Philadelphia, both because of its activities as a group and the individual positions held by its members.

 22. The dedication and loyalty of Central's alumni, whether measured by financial contributions or day-to-day participation in matters related to the school, equals the loyalty of many college alumni to their alma mater.

 23. While the number of Girls High graduates who have become influential in business, professional, or academic affairs does not approach the number who have graduated from Central, Girls has had a large number of graduates of note in these fields. Among the current community leaders who have graduated from Girls are three judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia and the first vice-president of the American Medical Association.

 24. The admissions standards of Girls High School are comparable of those of Central High.

 25. Graduates of both Central and Girls High, as well as the other senior high schools of Philadelphia, have been and are accepted for matriculation by the best and most prestigious colleges and universities.

 26. With the exception of scientific facilities, in which Central is superior, the academic facilities of Central and Girls High are comparable.

 27. The courses offered at Girls are similar and of equal quality to those offered at Central.

 28. Central High is the only high school in Philadelphia with a substantial private endowment. However, there is no evidence that as a result of this endowment Central's facilities, faculty, or course of instruction is superior to Girls.

 29. Both Central and Girls have fewer students than they are physically capable of handling. This is in stark contrast to most of the remaining senior high schools, which are substantially overcrowded.

 30. In general, it can be concluded that the education available to the female students at Girls is comparable to that available to the male students at Central.

 31. Central and Girls are not the only two single-sex schools in the Philadelphia School District. The Edison High School and the Benjamin Franklin High School admit only males and the Kensington High School admits only females. All three of these schools are comprehensive high schools, which means that they draw their students from the surrounding neighborhood.

 32. The practice of educating the sexes separately is a technique that has a long history and world-wide acceptance.

 33. There are educators who regard education in a single-sex school as a natural and reasonable educational approach.

 34. Dr. M. Elizabeth Tidball, a Professor of Physiology at George Washington University, compared the relative career successfulness, as measured by inclusion in Who's Who of American Women, of women graduates of coed colleges and all women's colleges. She first found that the percentage of women graduating from women's colleges who were later listed in Who's Who was two to three times greater than the percentage of women so listed who were graduates of coeducational institutions. This ...


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