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Sex Segregation In Schools Challenged

Sex Segregation In Schools Challenged

Continuing its attack on illegal sex segregation in public schools, the ACLU filed suit in federal district court in Louisiana, challenging the Vermillion Parish School District, alleging that recent policies violate Title IX of Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the U.S. Constitution.  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a parent whose two children were placed in sex segregated classrooms without being offered equivalent coeducational options as required by law.

According to the suit, approximately two weeks before the school year started the parents were informed that their middle school would be segregated according to sex.  The parents objected to the school district’s plan, alleging that it amounted to illegal sex segregation.  The school district agreed to amend the plan so that it included coeducational classes.  According to the school district, they would provide these coeducational classes and that any single-sex program would be voluntary.

However, on the first day of school the parent discovered that both of her children had been placed in single-sex classes.  When the parent requested that her daughters be placed in coed classes, she was told that those classes were already full and that the only option for her daughters would be a special needs class.  In connection with the announced lawsuit, Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said “[W]e have seen time and time again that sex segregated programs are inherently unequal for both girls and boys and in some instance, can shut students out of the best classes in the school simply because of their sex.  One of the strengths of public schools is the opportunity they provide for students to learn from those different from themselves.  Sex segregation leaves students less prepared for success in a coeducational world.”

In fact, a recent review of existing data by the U.S. Department of Education showed no consistent evidence that segregating students by sex improves learning by either boys or girls.  Despite these conclusions, school districts still try and employ sex segregation as a way to deal with overcrowded classrooms and failing test scores.  Districts often point to outdated and questionable “brain science” studies that purport to chronicle learning differences according to gender.  Those studies often suggest that teachers teach girls radically different than boys in the classroom, including encouraging girls to envision themselves as caregivers and suggesting boys are inherently more skilled in math and sciences.

Previous attempts by public school districts to create and enforce single-sex education in places like Georgia and Florida, once challenged, have failed.  Certainly public school districts across the country, and particularly in the south, face significant challenges, but the solution is not to deny students the opportunity to learn together.  Here’s hoping the ACLU has as much success with this recent effort as with prior challenges.

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photo courtsey of Dan via Flickr

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21 comments

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8:46AM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

If same sex classes make girls happier and helps them learn better then they should have them. But there is always be some group or other who wants to spoil what works in the name of twisted idealism. By all means let us mix the sexes together, not because it makes for a better educational experience, but because some fringe group starts whining about their "rights."

11:08AM PDT on Sep 25, 2009

Before I form an opinion on this, I'd like to know why the school thought it would be better to segregate in the first place. Sometimes, not always, there is a good reason behind such an attempt.

On another note, I'm really really sick and tired of the "we're being set back to the Dark Ages!" rant. There's enough liberated women in the school system to make sure such a thing doesn't happen. The boys might suffer because of "manly" men insisting that boys "act like men", but no one will dare tell a girl that sewing and ironing are important skills any more. Other than that, the biggest problem I see with segregation is that kids won't learn tolerance of each other, because they're not dealing with each other on a regular basis.

And lastly, I think all the options should be laid out before a kid so they can decide for themselves what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I'm perfectly happy being a homebody, but I would never force that lifestyle on my son or daughter. They are free to take the paths they feel are right for them. We as parents have to be responsible for our kids' futures, too. Sit up and start paying more attention, instead of waiting for something big to come up so you can shriek and complain and pretend you're truly concerned with your kids' upbringing.

5:14PM PDT on Sep 23, 2009

Well said... although I'm thinking more from the guys' perspective. Alot of men are growing up without ever learning any social skills and that's something we sorely need...

4:44AM PDT on Sep 23, 2009

Sex segregation would probably lead to gender bias in education. Boys' classes would encourage achievement in math and science, while girls' classes would emphasize social skills. In today's high tech world, everyone should be encouraged to excel in math & science, regardless of their sex.

8:38PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

A school is a place to learn academic studies, not a social gathering. I believe segregation is the best especially if ACLU is against it. I began to be distracted by girls when I was in the fifth grade.

4:15PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

I agree with Patricia A. Grade school is one thing, but by the time one goes to high school, it is best that the girls have their own school. Less distraction when the boys are not around. They can see them after class. I was in an all-girls school and found that we got a better education because we were studying and not worrying about what this boy or that was saying or asking us out, or wasting time putting on makeup when we should be studying. So glad my parents had the foresight to do that.

2:06PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

This is ridiculous. When I was in school all the classes and activities were co-ed, including PE.

1:31PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

oops...sorry I posted twice. :/

1:22PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

This article brings up a major flaw in our thinking of education. New studies are starting to produce results in ideals much bigger than just that of Gender as a basis for educational differences.
"NurtureShock" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoBYtMDvW-0
offers some light on how we are currently stuck in a system that is failing our children.

In regards to this article it isn't about the learning differences between girls and boys...that is a farce...what we should be focusing on is the fact that EACH CHILD LEARNS DIFFERENTLY. Until we embrace that, kids will exceed, fail or both continuously because they are beholden to stereotypes that lock our children into groups they cannot escape. And, in my mind, gender is the WORST basis for stereotypes which will undoubtedly exist if it is acknowledged...like the sex segregated schools mentioned.

I also want to mention some of the research that's been recently done by Alison Gopnik the author of "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life"
The results of her studies are amazing...and tell us that we have a lot VERY wrong when it comes how we think kids learn.

1:21PM PDT on Sep 22, 2009

This article brings up a major flaw in our thinking of education. New studies are starting to produce results in ideals much bigger than just that of Gender as a basis for educational differences.
"NurtureShock" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoBYtMDvW-0
offers some light on how we are currently stuck in a system that is failing our children.

In regards to this article it isn't about the learning differences between girls and boys...that is a farce...what we should be focusing on is the fact that EACH CHILD LEARNS DIFFERENTLY. Until we embrace that, kids will exceed, fail or both continuously because they are beholden to stereotypes that lock our children into groups they cannot escape. And, in my mind, gender is the WORST basis for stereotypes which will undoubtedly exist if it is acknowledged...like the sex segregated schools mentioned.

I also want to mention some of the research that's been recently done by Alison Gopnik the author of "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life"
The results of her studies are amazing...and tell us that we have a lot VERY wrong when it comes how we think kids learn.

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