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ACLU Reports Gender Stereotypes Rampant in Public Schools Single-Sex Classes

Gender stereotypes are prevalent in many K-12 public coeducational schools with single-sex academic classes and programs across the country according to the ACLU's "Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes" campaign report released last week. The ACLU's report looks at self-reported documents by 21 school districts in 15 states.

The ACLU found that multiple public school single-sex classes centered their practices on gendered stereotypes and served to reinforce them. One school cited by the ACLU strove to "ensure that students would experience 'male-hood and female-hood defined space' exhibiting characteristics of 'warrior, protector, and provider' for boys and giving girls 'space/time to explore things that young women like [including] writing, applying and doing make-up & hair, art.'"

The report found that many of single-sex programs evaluated violated Title IX requirements. This echoes the findings of a study on single-sex academic classes by the Feminist Majority Foundation in June, 2012. FMF discovered that from 2007 to 2010, over 1,000 public K-12 schools instituted deliberate single-sex classes. Most were single-sex classes in coed public middle and elementary schools. This total of over 1,000 schools is still an insignificant percentage of the some 98,000 K-12 public schools in the USA but reflects a troubling trend in some states since the 2006 Bush Administration Department of Education Title IX regulations weakening restrictions on sex segregation in public schools.

FMF found:
1. Justifications and specific plans for single-sex education were not based on scientific evidence that sex separation was needed to achieve desired educational outcomes for girls and/or boys.
2. Single sex classes were not equal. Often there were different student/teacher ratios and purposeful use of sex stereotypes to teach girls and boys differently based on false assumptions that they as a group learn differently.
3. Participation in the single-sex classes was not voluntary despite this requirement in the 2006 Title IX regulation. Schools often assigned students to these single-sex classes and some neighborhoods lost their access to coed schools when segregated schools or dual academies were created.
4. Schools with sex segregation did not have rigorous evaluations to determine whether or not single-sex treatment was more effective in increasing achievement than comparable coed classes, even though periodic evaluations are required by the ED 2006 Title IX regulation. (Occasional anecdotal information or reporting of achievement scores was provided, but not comprehensive quality evaluations to document effectiveness of sex segregation).

Media Resources: ACLU 8/20/12, Feminist Newswire 6/26/12

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