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October 24, 2012

School with "Fantasy slut league" has gender issue no one is talking about

By Carol Lloyd, Executive Editor

PiedmontHighSchool-resized

                                                                                                                         Photo: Wikipedia

 

Full disclosure: I’m in the middle of buying one of the cheapest houses on the market in Piedmont, CA, that verdant East Bay suburb surrounded by Oakland to which families flock for, you guessed it, the schools.  Ring a bell?

Last week Piedmont High School found itself in a maelstrom of controversy when the administration discovered that students had been running a “Fantasy Slut League,” an online statistical competition modeled on the fantasy leagues of professional sports. In this so-called league, "drafted" girls - often unbeknownst to them - earn points for engaging in sexual activities.  The administrators first discovered the league last week when students discussed it at an assembly to raise awareness about date rape. 

The news story broke when the principal wrote a letter to inform parents about the practice, outlining how the school would investigate and ultimately prevent the league from reoccurring.   The principal’s courses of action include interviewing students one on one and planning an assembly about “personal integrity.”

The letter said the league was played by varsity athletes (a detail that has been much contended by anonymous comments saying that this unfairly blames certain groups) and had been around for several years.  The administration has not responded to media requests for explanations as to whether the school will try to pinpoint who is involved. But the letter suggests that punishing acts that took place off campus would be difficult and that the administration was more interested in education and moving forward instead of disciplining past transgressions.

Entitled douchebag league?

If the Piedmont-based websites teeming with comments from people claiming to be parents and students offer any indication, the community is anything but of one mind on this issue.  Some criticize the administration for not treating the league with enough seriousness, averring that the league promulgates sexual harassment and even rape; others assert that school officials have blown what's essentially glorified high school gossip perpetuated by both boys and girls into a capital offense.  A few telling examples from an online community:

"Why not punish football team who is at center of this to show they are serious about such horrible behavior?"

"Are they kids or adults? Make up your mind. You're the one who wants to ban them from sports and take away their dreams."

"THE GIRLS SET UP A SIMILAR LEAGUE....And the girls' Powder Puff league is out of control too."

"Maybe we should have made an Entitled Douchebag League and tallied up every time a guy was sexist or derogatory towards a girl. I have a feeling the boys would have gotten a lot more tallies."

Schools on the Hill

Ever since 1907, when the affluent neighborhood in the Oakland Hills voted to incorporate itself as the city of Piedmont, the sparkling, well-funded schools have been integral to the city’s allure. In a region increasingly filled with complicated high school choices – private academies for $35K an annual pop, public lotteries like San Francisco’s where you don’t choose but pray to the lottery Gods, urban multiplexes like Berkeley High with its 3,349 students – Piedmont’s small public high school with its Blue Ribbon winning academics, bird calling contest, and Mediterranean architecture has always offered a more straightforward equation: pay a premium to rent or buy a house inside the district and your child can be one of the 785 students milling through the arched open-air hallways between the theatre program, Mandarin classes, ceramic studios, water polo teams, newspaper clubs, and a heaping plate of AP and honor’s classes all marching toward its famous 100% graduation and 98% college admissions rate.

Achieve the honorable

I visited Piedmont last spring, and though I didn’t see as much hands-on or project-based learning as I would have liked (lotsa lecturing), I still came away charmed.  Kids were incredibly focused in class, teachers dynamic, and though the town is known for its unfair share of uber-wealthy families ensconced in mansions on the hill, there was distinctly less swagger, less cleavage, and less material bling than a lot of other high schools I’ve visited.  I couldn't really tell if the kids were living by their school’s motto, "Achieve the Honorable," but there were stories about annual trips to Mexico to build homes for the poor and no red flags that they were aggressively pursuing the perverse.

But as the mother of two daughters, the news of the “Fantasy Slut League” has made me anything but sanguine. 

Not just that it happened at all or that alcohol may have been used to pressure girls to participate in the league to maintain their popularity.  But that the administration's suggestion that some students were worried that this “could result in discipline and affect their college applications” means they have “an understanding that there is something wrong.” Um yes, it’s also a sign that some of the participants are still thinking about themselves first, second, and third rather than the fellow classmates they may have hurt.

There have been arguments that the school has limited jurisdiction in punishing events that didn't take place on its grounds.  Still, even if the school feels powerless to curtail this off-campus, online stat-storm, it’s still worth them asking: does this school have a gender issue?  Are there signs that the girls are at any particular disadvantage in terms of learning?   

I want my girls in the Fantasy STEM League

By almost any measure, Piedmont has always been a high-performing school.  But last year it slipped in our rating system from a 10 to a 9, and being an editor at GreatSchools, I wondered why.  Turns out, Piedmont High has a sizable gender gap between boys’ and girls’ performance on test scores in math, science, and history.  According to 2012 California test scores, high school girls often lag behind their male counterparts in these subjects.  A quick camparison of other high-performing schools in the region - namely Redwood High School in Larkspur, Lowell in San Francisco and Campolindo in Moraga - found that the gender gap at Piedmont High School is far bigger.  In world history, only 79% of girls compared to 93% of boys reached proficiency.  And only 74% of girls reached proficiency in physics as compared to 97% of boys, and in chemistry the spread was 70% proficiency for girls and 88% for boys. As a point of contrast, here are the girl-to-boy test score spreads for Campolindo: world history 82%-90%, physics 86%-92%, chemistry 79%-91%. What's more, at Campolindo girls actually did better than boys in biology (98% vs 92%) compared to Piedmont where only 83% of the girls reach proficiency compared to 95% of boys.

Neither test scores nor a “Fantasy Slut League” can tell the whole story about a school – that’s why I haven’t completely lost hope this will be a great school for my gutsy, science loving girls.  But if the school is wondering whether they may have a gender problem or if their school culture is undermining some students' learning, they may not only want to look at what parents are saying on Piedmont Patch but at their own numbers.

 

Comments

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I was pretty shocked when I read about this. It seems like the school community is more comfortable with sweeping this under the table. Hopefully there are some real conversations happening around this.

Those conversations have to happen at home a LONG time before high school. Too many people focus on what kids are likely to do and give up on parenting rather than encouraging the kids to focus on school work and where they're going to go in life.

With luck, my daughter won't have time to worry about popular because she's going to have her head in a Science textbook, maintaining her grades in the class. Being the highest grade of five or six classes is the kind of popular she's worried about.

Well, My son goes to Lamar. There are similar problems there. These kids don't care about sexual protection. They don't have morals. I came home after work to find my son's " Friend " in My and my wife's bed with HIS girlfriend. My son was in his own room with another girl. They were having a " SWAP party".
We are moving at the end of the semester. I am being transferred. I am also sending my son to a military prep academy. They KNOW how to discipline.

PHS Principal Rich Kitchens just told the PIedmonter that Piedmont High was one of six Alameda County schools that qualify to apply for grants from Google to add AP STEM classes, but officials are unsure if they will apply.

"If it looks like we are underserving women, for example, that is something we will look at," Kitchens said.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/piedmonter/ci_22185516/piedmont-high-unsure-whether-apply-google-grants

Karen Shipp, in charge of Advanced Placement tests and programs, is finding out more about this program.

Google is donating $5 million to a program to help fund Advanced Placement courses in math and science, inviting more than a dozen Bay Area schools to apply. Google's Global Impact Awards would grant from $1,200 to $9,000 to a school to launch new courses that might not be available at some schools. But Piedmont already has numerous AP courses in its curriculum.

This is really happening at some households. Some parents tend to focus more on what their children prefers that encouraging them to concentrate on studies or school work. Parents seem to have given up their basic role of parenting.

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