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NY Post
New York Post
8 Apr 2023

NextImg:Muslim girls at Stuyvesant High School protest ‘immodest’ co-ed swim classes

Stuyvesant High School has eliminated girls-only swimming classes, forcing female Muslim students to sacrifice the modesty their religion demands if they want to earn a prestigious diploma.

Stuyvesant, which boasts an Olympic-sized pool at its Lower Manhattan campus, mandates a one-semester swim class by the end of sophomore year as a graduation requirement.

But since swimming classes, halted during the pandemic, resumed last fall, the 3,300-student school has dropped the single-gender option, saying the popularity of the girls’ classes created a programming logjam. 

Now, some Muslim students are refusing to attend a swim class with boys rather than betray their faith.

“I know girls who are just failing it right now,” one sophomore told The Post.

Senior Tasnim Chowdhury took the all-girls class as a sophomore and wants it reinstated.

“I’m not comfortable swimming with boys because I’m Muslim and it’s really hard for us,” she said. “I can’t believe the school would change it because it’s been a fundamental part of Stuy, and now it’s changed all of a sudden.”

The elite school may be violating Chancellor’s Regulation A-630, which requires schools to grant “accommodation of religious observances and practices,” when possible, Department of Education insiders told The Post.

Brian Moran, assistant principal of physical education told The Spectator student newspaper the girls’ swim gym was removed because “it created a major issue, mostly with programming.” So many girls requested it, the extra classes needed would clash with the scheduling of science labs held on alternate days, he explained. Each swim class must have a teacher and trained lifeguard on hand.

Tasnim Chowdhury, 17, is angry younger Muslim girls at Stuyvesant have lost the option of taking girls-only swim classes.
Helayne Seidman

In response to Muslim girls who objected, Moran said they can wear a full-body swimsuit — the so-called “burkini” — which covers everything but the face, hands and feet.

But many girls still feel immodest wearing the form-fitting suits around boys.

“Religious swimwear is going to stick to your body when you leave the swimming pool, so it’s still just awkward,” a 16-year-old sophomore said. 

the swimming pool at stuyvesant hs

The school says girls-only classes were eliminated due to programming difficulties.
Battery Park City Authority

Some Muslim girls reluctantly take the co-ed course to fulfill the requirement.

 “It was a bit uncomfortable at first because I wasn’t used to being so close to boys,” said freshman Sarzil Chowdhury, 14, who wore a burka-style swimsuit to cover up. “Later on I kind of got used to it, but I didn’t really like it that much.”

It’s unclear how many Muslim kids attend Stuyvesant. The school has a Muslim Student Association.

Stuyvesant hs

The elite Manhattan high school requires students to pass a swimming class by the end of sophomore year.
Helayne Seidman

Student Joey Chen, a self-described “hijabi” who wrote the Spectator piece, blasted the change as “a blatant disregard of the faith of a large percentage of the student body.” Students “are left helpless to choose between their faith or their Stuyvesant diploma,” she wrote.

The Stuyvesant seal embossed on a city diploma signifies that the student has earned extra credits in advanced courses in computers, science, math, world language – and has passed a swimming test or class.

Chen calls on all students to demand that Principal Seung C. Yu restore the girls-only classes.

A DOE administrator, who asked not to be named, agreed, noting that city schools must accommodate students who observe the current month of Ramadan, providing a place to pray. 

Stuyvesant — the Big Apple’s most sought-after specialized high school, admitting students with the highest scores on a citywide entry exam — should juggle the program to make girls-only classes fit, or drop the mandate, the administrator said. “They’re requiring it, so they should make it work.”

Yu and Moran did not return requests for comment.