Alabama public school separates boys and girls for all classes. The ACLU has a problem with this
Marie Leech | firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the U.S. Department of Education to investigate what it calls "unlawful" single-sex education programs in Birmingham's Huffman Middle School and another district in Idaho.
The ACLU filed complaints with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, saying the programs 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.
"We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children. But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer," said Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "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."
The single-sex program at Huffman Middle School has been in place since 2010 and students who wish to be in coeducational classes must transfer to another school. Huffman students are separated by sex for all classes, even during lunch.
According to the complaint filed by the ACLU, instructions for teaching boys call for stressing heroic behavior that shows what it means to "be a man." According to the ACLU, the school relied on a book that teaches that boys are better than girls in math because their bodies receive daily surges of testosterone, while girls have similar skills only a few days per month when they experience increased estrogen during the menstrual cycle.
"Every individual child learns differently, and no child should be forced to conform to one theory of how he or she should learn," said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. "Assuming that boys and girls learn according to their hormones is just an old-fashioned stereotype."
Efforts to reach the principal of Huffman Middle School have been unsuccessful this morning. Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon referred all questions to the district's general counsel, who could not be reached for comment this morning.
In Middleton, the single-sex program has been in place since 2006. In its complaint, the ACLU claims the program draws on stereotypes that men are active and independent while women are passive and dependent because the boys' day includes exercise and movement, while the girls are provided with a "quieter environment."
According to research conducted by the ACLU, boys there 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.
The program calls for "large amounts of explanation for assignments" for girls and "limited teacher explanation" for boys, the ACLU claims.
"The pervasive and unfounded idea that boys and girls learn so differently that every detail down to the temperature and the light in the classroom should be dictated by sex is ridiculous," said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, in a statement. "These programs have not made a bit of difference academically to the students of Middleton, but have supported archaic ideas of what is considered 'normal' for boys and girls."