The Lookout

Same-sex middle school classes draw fire from ACLU

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

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Students working with flash cards in an all-boys classroom in Middleton, Idaho, May 9, 2012. (Jessie L. Bonner …

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a pair of complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming same-sex education programs in two school districts are unlawful.

The ACLU said the programs—instituted by Middleton Heights Elementary in Middleton, Idaho, in 2006 and Huffman Middle School in Birmingham, Ala., in 2010—appear to violate federal law "by forcing students into a single-sex environment with little or no alternative options, rely on harmful gender stereotypes and deprive students of equal educational opportunities merely because of their sex."

The organization filed the complaints last week, saying the schools are in violation of Title IX, which "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs."

"We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children," Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project, told AL.com. "But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer."

She continued: "These programs are poorly designed and based on pseudoscience and stereotypes that do nothing to enhance learning, and only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave."

According to the ACLU complaint filed in Alabama, Birmingham City Schools produced guidelines for teachers to talk to boys about what it means to "to be a man."

According to the complaint filed in Idaho, the single-sex program "draws on stereotypes that men are active and independent while women are passive and dependent. The school plans the boys' day to include exercise and movement, while the girls are provided with a 'quieter environment.'"

More from the complaint:

Boys are seated shoulder-to-shoulder while girls are seated face-to-face on the theory that girls are more cooperative while boys are more competitive and should not be forced to make eye contact.

School officials in Alabama and Idaho did not immediately return requests from Yahoo News seeking comment.

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