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Education Reporter

ACLU Challenges Single-Sex Education
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In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of single-sex classes in public schools. Single-sex education has grown in popularity in recent years, and at least 392 public schools now offer some all-girl and all-boy academic classes. Proponents say that many boys and girls flourish in such settings, freed from gender stereotypes and the pressure to impress the opposite sex. For example, girls in single-sex settings are more likely to explore and enjoy math and science than they would be in a co-ed setting, while boys are more willing to explore foreign languages and the arts.

Proponents of single-sex education also cite research that shows some broad differences in how boys and girls learn — differences that appear to be physiological rather than social or learned. Most classroom environments cater more to girls' learning styles and comfort, leaving many boys bored. Those who favor single-sex education hope tailoring classrooms to each sex will help both to excel and become more enthusiastic about school.

The ACLU, however, does not believe that single-sex learning is beneficial or even constitutional. The recently filed lawsuit accuses Breckinridge County Middle School in Kentucky of offering unequal options to boys and girls and of placing students in single-sex classrooms without input from parents or students. Both actions are out of compliance with the federal Department of Education's 2006 regulations for single-sex education. The lawsuit also challenges the Department's regulations, saying that they violate Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters and director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE), says the ACLU has been carefully preparing a challenge to the legality of public single-sex schooling for three years. According to Sax, the group has been looking for a school that was violating Department of Education policy, in order to convince a court that the policy is inadequate and should be overturned. "Now they think they've found it," said Sax. (Washington Times, 5-24-08)

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