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City to add free self-defense classes for boys, men only

City Council "reluctantly" votes for boys' and men's classes after group accuses city of violating equal-protection clause.

April 30, 2014
  • Camp Rosie participant Kyla Khouri, 14 of Glendale, learns self-defense techniques from instructor Nelson Nio at Pacific Community Center in Glendale on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. The legality of the classes was recently brought to light after a letter sent to the city by the National Coalition for Men.
Camp Rosie participant Kyla Khouri, 14 of Glendale, learns… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Rather than get rid of free self-defense classes offered by a city commission for women and girls that puts the city on shaky legal grounds, the City Council this week unanimously voted to offer similar classes for men and boys.

Most of the council members voted reluctantly for the alternative classes, which were prompted after a nonprofit called the National Coalition for Men argued in a letter sent to city officials in March that gender-exclusive self-defense classes violate equal-protection clauses of the constitution.

“If we have to provide a second class, I’m all for it,” said Councilman Frank Quintero. “But all in all, I think this National Coalition for Men is a joke quite frankly.”

Following the letter, the city suspended two classes scheduled for last month that had a total of 160 females signed up with 70 on a waiting list, according to a city report. On average, 106 females annually have benefitted from the classes that have been offered since 2008.

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The goal of the classes is to provide training that may help participants avoid sexual assaults and fight perpetrators if they are ever attacked, said Tereza Alexanian, an executive analyst with the city.

It has been historically structured as gender-exclusive because women need to learn unique skills as they are attacked differently than men and have a different body structure, Alexanian said. In addition, some women who have been victims of rape or abuse may feel uncomfortable taking the class with men and the level of participation may drop if the class was open to both genders, she said.

However, Harry Crouch, president of San Diego-based National Coalition for Men, has said men are prone to violent attacks, too, and could also benefit from free self-defense classes. Offering the training for one gender and not the other violates state and federal laws, according to the nonprofit, which aims to protect legal rights for both genders.

The coalition also sent a letter last week to the California Attorney General, the Los Angeles city attorney and council members as well as a host of other public officials in regards to several women-and-girls-only free self-defense classes scheduled to take place in May in the San Fernando Valley.

The classes are to be hosted by State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department.

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