Learn about a school district in Missouri that buckled under the pressure of the ACLU and took single-sex classes out of its schools. We’ll also look at some of the evidence that both supports and refutes the benefits of single-sex classrooms.
Facing pressure and a potential lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, a small Missouri agreed to discontinue voluntary, single-sex classes in its schools. The Adrian R-III school district is not the first to come into the ACLU fight over single-sex classrooms, since the U.S. Department of Education approved the practice under specific conditions in 2006. Single-sex classrooms have been the source of debate between government leaders and educators for some time, as studies supporting the practice have been somewhat inconclusive, but concerns over equal rights for both genders have come into question.
Why Missouri Began Offering Single-Sex Classes
According to a report at Reuters, the Missouri school district began offering single-sex classes to certain grades in their schools this year. Students in grades 6 through 8 were the primary recipients of this choice, although some higher grades received single-sex class options as well. Class options included math and communication art, according to St. Louis Today. The superintendent of Adrian schools, Kirk Eidson, said the decision was made in the interest of students, since some research indicates that students may perform better in single-sex classrooms.
“There were some behavioral issues that impacted learning,” Eidson explained to Reuters in regards to the co-ed classes. Eidson added that students who chose to participate in single-sex classrooms this year were doing better with less classroom distractions.
The district issued a written statement about the decision, which said the classes were used on a “voluntary basis in an effort to continue improvement of student learning.” Although the classes were originally assigned by school administrators, parents were later given the option to withdraw students from the single-sex classrooms. The parents of four of the students in the single-sex classes chose to exercise that option.
Changes to the System
Numerous school districts nationwide have chosen to experiment with single-sex classrooms since the U.S. Department of Education changed the requirements in 2006. At that time, the federal government issued amendments to Title IX regulations, which deal specifically with gender equality in public schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the amendments were based on an exploratory observational study and a review of literature on the subject that was available in 2004. A survey of single-sex public schools was also included in the evaluation.
Through their research, the Department of Education determined there was sufficient evidence to suggest that single-sex classrooms might prove beneficial academically and socially to at least some public school students. Principals and teachers involved in the studies found single-sex classrooms and schools to be more orderly, with fewer distractions in the classroom. Based on these findings, the U.S. Department of Education made it legal for schools to offer single-sex classes to students, as long as they fell within the precise guidelines issued by the federal government and proved beneficial to the students.
Research Refuted by the ACLU
Despite the decision by the U.S. Department of Education, the ACLU has fought, and continues to fight, the decisions by some school districts to implement single-sex classrooms. According to St. Louis Today, the organization believes the regulations are in direct violation of the Constitution and Title IX, which bans any type of sex discrimination in public schools. As a result, the organization has pushed many schools districts to rescind their decisions to establish single-sex classrooms and has even taken some districts to court when they refused to comply.
The most recent issue prior to the Adrian school district was with Pittsburgh Public Schools. According to St. Louis Today, the head of that district recommended that schools drop single-sex classes when the ACLU threatened legal action. The organization also took on the Vermillion Parish School Board in Louisiana, resulting in a lawsuit that forced the district to remove single-sex classes from their schools. A district in Wisconsin also removed single-sex class options after receiving pressure from the organization.
In response to the research cited by the U.S. Department of Education that demonstrates the benefits of same-sex classrooms, the ACLU has made reference to a recent study in the Journal Science, which called single-sex education “deeply misguided” and referred to the “pseudoscience” studies used to support it.
“There is just no scientific support for single-sex education,” Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, told Reuters. “It’s based on sex stereotypes that are ridiculous.”
The ACLU Plays Hardball
The ACLU sent a letter to the Adrian school district, stating federal Title IX regulations require that single-sex classes “be based on specific, identifiable objectives, must be completely voluntary and must ensure that a substantially equal co-educational option is available.”
Like other districts around the country, Adrian bowed to ACLU pressure and agreed to pull their single-sex classes from their schools. KMBC reports that the district would stop single-gender classes “as soon as possible,” which probably means at the end of the semester. However, the agreement does not mean the school district agrees with the ACLU’s interpretation of the federal regulations regarding single-gender classrooms.
“While the district does not necessarily agree with the ACLU’s legal analysis or conclusions regarding research on the topic, it has decided to stop providing its students with the opportunity to participate in single-sex classes effective as soon as possible with most changes occurring at the beginning of next semester,” the district attorney for the school district wrote in a statement.
In the meantime, students enjoying the single-sex classrooms will have just a few more short days to get the most out of the experience before co-ed classrooms become the standard in their schools once again.
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