ACLU Takes Aim at Single-Sex Educational Programs

The American Civil Liberties Union has released a preliminary report which shows that single-sex schools across the country are operating on theories that are unfounded in science and rooted in gender stereotypes.

“Too many of these programs are based on sweeping and unfounded generalizations that assume that all girls learn one way and all boys learn a different way,” said Amy L. Katz, cooperating attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “All meaningful studies of these programs show that they don’t improve academics, but they do foster stereotypes and do a disservice to kids who don’t fit these artificial distinctions.”

In order to safeguard against sex discrimination, federal law prohibits coeducational schools from implementing single-sex programs unless they meet extremely stringent legal requirements. At a minimum, schools must offer a persuasive justification for the decision to institute single-sex programming based on something other than stereotypes. There must be evidence that the sex separation will improve student performance, the separation has to be determined on a class-by-class basis, the programs must be completely voluntary, and a substantially equal co-educational alternative must be available.

The ACLU report shows lack of compliance with these requirements is widespread. In addition to basing programs on stereotypes, some schools required students who did not wish to participate in sex-separated classes to enroll in another school, while others failed to alert parents that they could opt out of the classes.

“We all want to find the answer to fix schools that are in crisis, but simply separating boys and girls is not going to fix anything,” said Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Supporters of these programs claim they’re giving parents a choice, but all our findings have shown that in a significant number of cases, there is no coeducational option available. An option based on methods that have been never been proven to be effective is not a valid choice at all.”

The ACLU is continuing to collect data on single-sex educational programs in 15 states. The preliminary report can be accessed here.


Filed Under: DiscriminationEnrollments


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