Coming to Washington to Talk About Equality

My name is Nikki Anthony and I just finished eighth grade at Breckinridge County Middle School in Kentucky. The ACLU is representing me, my younger sister, and five other students in a case against our school district and the U.S. Department of Education because our rights are being violated by my school segregating students by sex. I was raised in a house where rights are very important, and I was told, "if you don't stand up for your rights then they will be taken away." People in the United States don't tolerate segregation by sex in everyday life, and yet they want us to tolerate it in our school system when we are supposed to be learning what being free really is.

For this reason my family and I are attending the ACLU Membership Conference this June in Washington, D.C., our Nation's capital. Most people look at the capital as a place that keeps our country held together and that's the way that it should be. Our capital is the seat of justice and equality in our Nation — EQUALITY being the key word. Separating students into different groups based on sex is wrong, and it doesn't make things equal for all students. Our society is not based on your gender, and the schools are supposed to prepare us for when we enter the real world. How does separating students by sex prepare us for society when society is not segregated that way?

One day before school started last summer, I went into the school to find out who my teachers were and I was happy with those results. All the trouble started when I found out that I had five all-girls' classes, and my parents and I had no say in what kind of classes I was put in. The past two years that I was at Breckinridge County Middle School, we were given the choice to be in "gender-specific" or co-educational classes. My family and I had always chosen co-educational classes, but this year my rights and my fellow students' rights were taken away because we no longer had the right to choose.

The even bigger problem is that the all-girls' classes and the all-boys' classes are supposed to be equal, but that's not the way it worked at my school. The all-girls' math class that I was in was much more advanced than the all-boys' math class. The other part of this problem is that the single-sex classes were the only Algebra 1 classes in the eighth grade; there wasn't a co-educational class to match the single-sex classes like there is supposed to be. We were offered the chance to switch into a new co-educational class but our teacher told us that the class would be made up of a combination of Algebra and Pre-Algebra students and would not move as fast as the all-girls' math class. Most of the students, including me, were afraid to switch because we would not be moving at a pace that would challenge us and allow us to learn at our capability level.

My family and I are so excited about coming to Washington, D.C., for the ACLU Membership Conference. We can't wait to meet other people who care about civil rights as much as we do. I am hoping to meet other young people who care about human rights. This trip means a lot to me and my family; we can't wait to tell our story. I am also very excited to learn about the other types of rights the ACLU fights for!

Listen to a podcast of Nikki, her father Frankie, and sister Stacey, talk about their case.

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Rosemarie F Palmer

The county where I go to school, is having a uniforn policy for all students next year. The message these schools are sending is that they have power over you and you have to obey. Power should be used very sparingly, to protect life and limb. Perhaps I should sing protest songs, hear me at myspace dot com forward slash rosemariefpalmer . I guess the schools would not like that!

freeman

nice article!

freeman

One question? Is it a public school?

piratans

In any case, this is a healthy population of folks that have the same right as anyone else to not live in poverty, to not give up the Social Security they've earned over a long life, and to live with someone they love without worrying what will happen to them should they get sick or pass away.

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skai

Nikki Anthony

Yes, Breckinridge County Middle School is a public School. Where we should learn how to interact with the opposite sex, to be prepared for the real world!

Guest

Did you know that the ACLU fights for a group that protests the funerals of dead American soldiers demeaning their deaths?

Anonymous

As a middle school teacher, I must say that it is great that schools are trying to separate the sexes.
Middle school is a time, for most students, where they are persecuted for the wrong answer and often intimidated by the opposite sex. By separating sexes, more students will be able to focus on participating in class rather than what their crush is thinking about them.
It is true that children need to interact with the opposite sex, but that does not have more importance than the quality of education. There is plenty of time to interact with the opposite sex in the coming years and in other aspects of the school day.
I would suggest that people should give separating the sexes in schools a fair shot, before they start tooting the civil rights horn.
I assume that Nikki and her friends are trying to get the best education they can. I would hope that they are willing to see if this separation yields better performance results for all students.
I applaud the school for trying to make an innovated approach to improve the education of their students.
After all, if it works, and some parents and students don't like the situation, they can fight for school choice, right?

Research scientist

As a research scientist who studies gender and achievement, I strongly endorse Nikki's goals. There are many problems with gender-segregated classrooms. Of course, teachers and principals who like gender segregation are doing it with the best interests of the children in mind. But this approach reinforces gender stereotyped thinking of girls and boys as "opposites." There is some research that suggests children do better in classroom segregated by race/ethnicity. Would we want to return to racial segregation? Instead, we should focus on ways that help girls and boys (and all groups) learn together. And there are proven ways to do that (e.g., collaborative learning activities). During the last 30-40 years, the gender gap in math achievement has dramatically closed. Now, just about as many women as men attain bachelor's degrees in math (NSF: 48% women in 2004). (The current challenge is getting them to stay in math-related fields after college; on 27% of math PhD went to women.) For a comprehensive review of the research on this topic, I recommend a recent report by Diane Halpern and others ("The science of sex differences and mathematics," Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Volume 8, 2007).

Curious

Nikki, Do you have a myspace on which i can talk to you on?

Im a freshman from Washington state and i would be really mad if my Public High School started Single-sex classes.

Nikki

No i don't have a myspace I'm sorry

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