Is Sex-Segregated Education Against the Law?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has requested records from public school districts in several states – including California, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin – stating that their policy of segregating students by sex is breaking the state laws. They said that these schools are “violate[ing] federal and state law by forcing students into a single-sex environment, relying on harmful gender stereotypes and depriving students of equal educational opportunities merely because of their sex.”

The idea of separating students based on sex is not a new one, and has been gaining some traction, thanks to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education who has been pushing the idea that girls and boys have fundamentally different brain chemistry and, therefore, should be separated when they are learning. The association says that this not only makes learning easier for the students, but it makes teaching easier for the teachers because they only have to reach one kind of kid.

However, lumping students together based on their sex and saying that all girls are the same and all boys are the same seems as asinine as lumping students together by any other identifiable marker. As a teacher, I was trained to think of each student as an individual, not to lump them into categories. I might have a girl who is a hands-on learner – a typical male trait – and I might have a boy who is interested in crafts and storytelling – typical female traits. The fact is that these students are individuals. The ACLU agrees; this is not the first time they have spoken out against single-sex education. From their website:

Social scientists have found that separating students by sex simply makes the contrast between the sexes more salient. And, when you look at what the proponents of single-sex classrooms are preaching, it’s easy to see the world segregated classrooms can create. Take Dr. Leonard Sax, who suggests that a boy who likes to read, does not enjoy contact sports, and does not have a lot of close male friends has a problem, even if he thinks he is happy, and that such a boy should be firmly disciplined, required to spend time with “normal males,” and made to play sports.

New research supports the idea that single-sex classrooms are not any better than co-ed classrooms, as well. In South Korea, students are randomly assigned to either single-sex or co-ed classrooms, making it the perfect place to study the effects of both. The findings are that there are no differences in science or math performance when students are in single-sex or co-ed classrooms.

People are agreeing with these findings in droves. The journal, “Science,” for example, published an article entitled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling” saying: ”Sex-segregated education is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.” They’re not the only ones; many researchers and authors are agreeing that segregation based on sex just perpetuates stereotypes that further push the feminist hope of gender equality to the background.

Keep this in mind as your children gear up for school this fall. If your child is forced into a sex-segregated classroom against your will, the school is probably breaking the law, no matter how much fancy research they try to throw at you.

Photo Credit: Archives New Zealand


Magdalen B.
Magdalen B2 years ago

"and made to play sports." That should fix 'em! :) It's interesting that quite a few seriously successful athletes have come out as gay recently and there will be many more.

Mike Wilkinson
Mike Wilkinson3 years ago

I detect subconscious boys would have boy teachers and girls women teachers! .... they didn't do this when I was in catholic grade school, late 50s-early 60's, I detect pointy hatted puritans......

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


Aud Nordby
Aud nordby3 years ago


Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Separating kids by sex leads to all kinds of problems. Boys don’t understand girls; girls don’t understand boys. If they’re allowed to be together, they learn from each other. I enjoyed sharing ideas with boys as well as girls--it gave me a whole different perspective.
In junior high and high school some classes were segregated. Boys got to take cool stuff like drafting and mechanical drawing and metal shop. Girls had to take sewing and cooking. I got my only D in sewing and didn’t do much better in cooking. I wasn’t interested, so I didn’t apply myself. Let kids study what interests them.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago

Whatever tickles your fancy....

Olivia H.
Past Member 3 years ago

A 2012 University of Pennsylvania study of South Korean high schools states, "Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools rather than attending coeducational schools is significantly associated with higher average scores on Korean and English test scores. Single-sex schools have a higher percentage of graduates who attended four-year colleges and a lower percentage of graduates who attended two-year junior colleges than coeducational schools. The positive effects of single-sex schools remain substantial, even after taking into account various school-level variables such as teacher quality, the student-teacher ratio, the proportion of students receiving lunch support, and whether the schools are public or private."
Single-sex education is a choice, made by families because they value the extraordinary benefits of this learning environment.

Submitted by Megan K. Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS)

Olivia H.
Past Member 3 years ago

While critics suggest that single-sex educations reinforce stereotypes, no such data is provided, just as it was not provided in the article “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling,” referenced above. The central value of single-sex schools is freedom from, not reinforcement of, gender stereotypes. When you combine strong female mentors and positive role models, reduced sex stereotyping in curriculum and classroom, and abundant learning opportunities the results are clear. Educational researcher Cornelius Riordan, Professor of Sociology at Providence College and author of “Girls and Boys in School: Together or Separate?” sums it up: “Females especially do better academically in single-sex schools and colleges across a variety of cultures. Having conducted research on single-sex and coeducational schools for the past two decades, I have concluded that single-sex schools help to improve student achievement.” The U.S. Department of Education’s comprehensive summary of research on single-sex vis a vis coeducation concludes: “The preponderance of studies in areas of academic accomplishment (both concurrent and long term) and adaptation or socioemotional development (both current and long term) yields results lending support to SS (single sex) schooling.”

A 2012 University of Pennsylvania study of South Korean high schools states, "Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools rather than attending coeducational schools is signif

Ken W.
Ken W3 years ago


Berny p.
Berny p3 years ago