Historic Detroit

Northern High School

Northern High School, as its name would suggest, served the students of northern Detroit, specifically the New Center area.

In April 1966, more than 2,000 students at Detroit’s Northern High School, 98% of them African American, staged a walkout to protest the quality of the education they were getting. Their efforts led to the ouster of the principal, vice principal and a school policeman.

Some of the distinguished Jayhawk alumni include singers Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Ron Banks of the Dramatics; NBA players Derrick Coleman and Sam Williams; and track and field star Marshall Dill.

Citing a financial crisis from plummeting student enrollment district-wide, Detroit Public Schools closed Northern High on June 22, 2007. It was one of several other buildings DPS shuttered as part of a major city-wide realignment plan.

Today, the school is known as the Detroit International Academy for Young Women, the only public all-girls pre-K-12 school in the state. The school mascot is the Pink Panthers. It offers a college preparatory curriculum with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.

The academy opened in 2005 for ninth- and 10th-graders. Principal Beverly Hibbler had to petition lawmakers in Lansing to allow a same-gender public school. Her bet proved to be a success. To meet demand, the school soon added an 11th and 12th grade and moved into the vacant Northern High building. In 2009, it expanded to include sixth grade and K-5 in 2010. Prekindergarten was added in 2013.

Why girls only? Apparently, one of the reasons listed on a DPS website is “No boys to cause a distraction in the classroom.” Other reasons include creating “a sisterhood formed by a diverse student population including Bangladeshi, African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian, allowing the young women to comfortably learn about each unique culture” and “a bond to help one another succeed during their school years and beyond.”

Hibbler said: “Usually, that’s a privilege for the affluent,” Hibbler says. “If you can afford it, you can always go to same-gender schools. For example, if your income is high enough, you would be able to afford a tuition that may be $14,000 annually to go to other all-girls schools in the region.” “We give the same opportunities to those who may not be as fortunate to pay that steep tuition,” Hibbler adds. “And we believe that everyone should have a choice regardless of your income.”