By Ken Stone
The Girls Empowerment Camp has risen from the ashes.
Eleven days after a civil rights lawyer prompted the cancellation of what he called an illegal “girls-only” event, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday it’s back on — open to boys and girls ages 14-18.
The second annual event originally set for March 3-4 will now take place on two weekends – April 14-15 and May 19-20.
The name remains Girls Empowerment Camp, which is free and offered at the Naval Training Center by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation.
“The camp’s attention to empowering girls is an effort to introduce young women to a profession where women are greatly underrepresented,” said a city statement.
Faulconer said: “We made a commitment to hundreds of kids and their families and we are going to stand by that. This is an important camp that teaches kids what it’s like to be a firefighter and exposes many of them to a career opportunity they may not have considered previously.”
On Feb. 22, civil rights attorney Alfred Rava of San Diego wrote City Attorney Mara Elliott and fire agency leaders to object, saying his regular men’s rights client, Rich Allison, “was deterred and prevented” from enrolling his teen son.
Rava said boys were not invited to attend, “based solely on their sex” — an apparent violation of the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Reacting to the news, Rava told Times of San Diego: “My client and the many firefighting and rescue professionals from across the U.S. who called in support of my client after the media reported on my client’s effort to convince the City of San Diego to use taxpayers’ money to teach both boys and girls how to save lives and be empowered to be whatever they wanted to be when they grow up, will be thrilled to learn the city has opened the camp to all children, no matter their gender.”
Rava mocked reports that the camp was cancelled as a result of a lawsuit threat implied in his letter.
“And I would think that the city’s announcement will satisfy that other attorney, whoever she or he is, who reportedly threatened the city with a lawsuit over what was to be a No Boys Allowed Empowerment Camp,” Rava said via email.
Allison did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he too insisted in the past that his aim was to open the camp to both sexes.
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But fire foundation board member Rachel Laing told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the group had no record of the young man attempting to register, “nor of his attempting to contact the foundation.”
“We can only surmise that he might have attempted to register after the camp was already full (it fills up within 36 hours) and got a notification indicating the camp was full,” she said.
The city says the families who previously registered for the cancelled camp will have first choice of the weekend on which they wish to take part in the new camps.
Those already on the waiting list will also have the opportunity to register, the city said.
“Our firefighters, staff and volunteers put their hearts and souls into this event,” said Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. “We are committed to moving forward with this excellent opportunity for young people.
“Last year, we heard that the Girls Empowerment Camp was a priceless experience for the campers. We want the same for our 2018 participants.”
According to a 2016 National Fire Protection Association study, only 7 percent of firefighters nationwide are women.
Wendy Robinson, executive director of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation, said in a statement: “We applaud the decision of Mayor Faulconer to move forward with this camp and look forward to having even more young people educated and mentored on careers in public safety.”
- Hands-on training with firefighting tools and equipment.
- Exposure to public safety career options.
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training.
- And backpack, T-shirt and lunch.
Prospective campers can register at sdfirerescue.org/gec.
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