It's Not Choice, It's Inequality

Today the ACLU filed an amended complaint in federal court charging that Breckinridge County, Ky., and the U.S. Department of Education are violating the law by allowing sex segregation in public schools. The ACLU lawsuit expands a previous lawsuit filed by a private attorney to include the Department of Education as a defendant for its role in encouraging sex-segregated schooling. School districts across the country have been touting the 'choice' that sex-segregated programs offer students and parents, but Breckinridge County is a perfect illustration of why sex-segregated education fails to offer a meaningful choice.

Nikki Anthony is a talented 8th-grader at Breckinridge County Middle School. She and her parents prefer that she be in co-ed math classes, learning to compete and work together with boys, which she feels will prepare her for high school (which is co-ed in Breckinridge) and the real world. But at the beginning of the school year, the school decided that what was better for her was to be in a girls-only algebra class. She was offered no choice, and her parents had no say in the matter.

Not surprisingly, there was protest from parents of the middle school students who had been assigned to either sex-segregated or co-ed classes with no parental input. In response, the school belatedly gave some parents the option to switch their kids out of the sex-segregated classes. But there was no co-ed algebra class for Nikki to switch into. All of the algebra students had been put into either the girls-only or the boys-only class; the only co-ed 8th-grade math class being offered was a pre-algebra class. Nikki couldn't switch out of her math class without compromising her education because the girls' class was the best math class in the school, moving at a faster rate than the boys' algebra class. (This also means that boys did not even have the option of attending the best math class in the school.)

It was then that Nikki and her parents realized the real problem with sex-segregated education: it is impossible to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students when you create single-sex classes, even when there is still a co-ed option. When you separate students into two or three different sets of classes based on gender, inequality is inevitable. Sure, Nikki was given the 'option' to switch into a co-ed math class, but it would have meant repeating the curriculum she had learned the year before. She didn't have a real choice.

Nikki's situation illustrates the fundamental problem with the sex segregation experiments that public schools across the country have been conducting. Many districts are advertising sex segregation programs as new options for improving education that offer students and parents more choices. But what sex segregation really does is create inequality and deprive both boys and girls of the benefits of a diverse classroom. Furthermore, it diverts attention and resources from reliable methods of improving student achievement, such as reducing class sizes, increasing parental involvement, and improving teacher training.

Sex segregation is illegal and discriminatory, and we hope that our lawsuit results in public school districts halting these experiments and the U.S. Department of Education rescinding its 2006 regulations encouraging sex segregation in schools.

To listen to podcasts of the Anthony family and ACLU Women's Rights Project Deputy Director, Emily Martin, discussing the sex segregation in the Breckinridge County School District and for more information on the Women's Rights Project's work on sex segregation, check out: www.aclu.org/sexsegregation.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that we "filed a lawsuit." An amended complaint, not a lawsuit, was filed.

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Anonymous

What about other schools like Breckinridge County that have two teachers that teach the same grade and the same subject. Must they teach their classes the exact same way? Is that even possible? What about schools in the same district or county? What if one of them offers a higher level course? Should students be allowed to transfer or sue because their school is unequitable? What about from state to state? We teach using higher standards here in Kentucky than in many other states? Is that fair to our students? Should we be sued because we are challenging our students too much? I think that this problem was rectified as soon as the school offered choice. What more could you possibly want? They say that the classes they were offered were unequitable because they were going slower. I did not realize that covering the content expediately meant that students learnt it better. There was no sex-segregation going on here, just teachers and administrators trying to educate children in the best ways possible. I applaud their effort. I feel that trying new and alternative methods of educating this generation should be praised and I can only hope that all schools around the country try as this school has to do, what they as educators (education experts) feel works.

Anonymous

The class was never an equal class. Teh class violated several civil rights listed in the 2006 regulations. Who do we classify as experts? Who decides which children in districts will be the guinea pigs? Why should a school district have the right to offer unequal public education. Without any means for the present regulations to be enforced. Why should a school district have more say than a parent?

Anonymous

Sex-segregation was and is the issue. As for schools that have two teachers they should be teaching the same content and standards. That is why Kentucky teachers take time for curriculum alignment. Alignment means the same information not the same method. The issue is not due just to inequality in the class room but to a violation of rights. Students were placed without parental consent. At no point was it stated that students must be taught the same way. If you took the time to read the suit you would notice that a choice was not offered until weeks into the school year. In addition, the co-educational class created did not contain advanced students from the single sex classes. Is that fair? The textbooks were not the same for the gender specific and coed classes. The co-educational class did not have the Algebra 1 text and was actually called pre-algebra and was only changed in name after violations were pointed out. However, textbook differences and student distribution was not corrected. As a teacher, it is my job to ensure that the needs of all children are met and that fly by night gimmicks do not replace quality instruction. If the teachers and educators involved had done their homework they would have known that studies show no benefit for gender based classes. New and alternative methods are always being pushed by companies or groups with their own agendas. If teachers and administrators do not take time to learn about those methods and the data behind them they should not try them. "Educational experts" should know how to evaluate programs. Students deserve the best education possible not to be treated like lab rats.

Anonymous

Hmmm. It seems that one just cannot win. For years you have all been complaining of sex discrimination by teachers and administrators and adults in general in technical subjects with respect to female students. This discrimination usually took place in the co-ed classroom with subtle remarks about a female's ability to do math and science. Now, someone tries to do something about it and it's whine, whine, whine again. Make your minds up.

Anonymous

I cannot believe the fuss that this argument has created.
As it has been said, ex-segregation is an issue. BUT, the whole situation has been over-exaggerated.

The article also leaves out key parts of the story, or twists them around

Anonymous

I cannot believe the fuss that this argument has created.

As it has been said, ex-segregation is an issue. BUT, the whole situation has been over-exaggerated.

The article also leaves out key parts of the story, or twists them around.

First of all, there are only four gender-based classes in the entire school. The article makes it seem like the whole school was affected.

Also, I'd like to point out that every student DID have the option to switch out of or into a gender-based class. Sure, this was a couple weeks after school started, but did Nikki switch? No, she did not. The family claims that this was because there was no other Algebra class to switch into, but in fact, there was. By this time, most (if not all) 8th grade classes had completed pre-algebra, and moved on. To add to this, at least twice a week, every student is taken to a computer lab to work on an individual Carnegie program, where everyone learns at their own pace. Therefore, she would not have been "held back" in any way.

Also, the comment that says, "textbooks were not the same for the gender specific and coed classes. The co-educational class did not have the Algebra 1 text and was actually called pre-algebra and was only changed in name after violations were pointed out. However, textbook differences and student distribution was not corrected" is a total load of garbage. Every 8th grader at BCMS has the EXACT same textbook, and not once were the "titles changed" to sooth parents. I don't know where that person got their information, but they obviously need to do some more research...

It was stated in the article, "Nikki couldn’t switch out of her math class without compromising her education because the girls’ class was the best math class in the school, moving at a faster rate than the boys’ algebra class. (This also means that boys did not even have the option of attending the best math class in the school.)"

So are you telling me that the class who works the fastest is automatically the best? The male Algebra classes just happened to go back and cover the curriculum in actual lessons, not five-minute "warm-ups", which is the route that the female classes took. But wait, the article fails too mention that too, now doesn't it?

"She and her parents prefer that she be in co-ed math classes, learning to compete and work together with boys, which she feels will prepare her for high school (which is co-ed in Breckinridge) and the real world." Oh yeah, she was definitely deprived of her social rights... oh wait. No she wasn't. An important detail that was not included in the article was that Nikki (and other students in her home room) has a skills class with the opposite gender, eats lunch with the opposite gender, and sits with the opposite gender in the mornings before school. She flirts plenty during these periods, she doesn't need another four hours.

I personally see this as an attempt of revenge at the school for something that happened recently that didn't involve any of the protesters at all.

They just need to quick whining. The school year is over, and according to the article, Nikki is still *very talented*.

Ridiculous

Our nation's schools continue to be attacked by ignorant individuals who have no idea what makes schools great. But, hey at least the ACLU isn't putting all their eggs in one basket defending extremists who picket the funerals of our military soldiers who died serving our country.

Lots of axes to grind with the plaintiffs here as well. Its amazing that facts can be twisted and distorted into falacy in search of MONEY and REVENGE. This suit is frivolous indeed in the name of money and parts are so distorted it's laughable.

Anonymous

Author of comment six, How dare you attack a child personally. I am not a teacher in Breckinridge county but am appalled by you lack of professionalism. That is assuming you are an educator based on the biased way you wrote your response. Individuals like you give everyone a bad name. The law suit is not about a child's right to flirt and your twisting the facts to make the child look like the problem is PATHETIC!!! You should be ashamed. The misleading information that you tried to correct for another blog was correct the FIRST time. Maybe you need to educate yourself and read the complaint. I have read it. I am a teacher in another county and was interested in the pros and cons of gender specific classes. In addition, I did contact a friend that works in Breckinridge county and have been informed that some students are in gender specific classes for all content classes. Which is a comment that you said is not true. The unequal content and text book was also discussed and was a personal concern of my friend. Durig our conversation the large number of lawsuits your county is facing due to unprofessional and illegal practices was mentioned. I questioned the validity of some of them but by your response I can see the unprofessional being true. I know not all of the educators in the county are unprofessional. The old saying about a few bad apples comes to mind. If you are in education and attack a child the way you did maybe it is time to rethink your career choice. Anyone attacking a child the way you did is definitly a boil on the butt of society.

Unknown

I have to say the situation was blown out of proportion. I think that the school should have gave kids a choice to begin with but I also think the fuss should have stop when the choice was given. That is all the family wanted right?? So why are they still fighting the system tooth and nail. I think that the school's intentions were good. I understand that they want the best for their students. They never wanted to take away rights. They are only concerned about the future of our country. By the looks of things it is not going to be very pretty in 20 years. So I think the school wants to give thier students the best learning oppurtunities so they can be sucessful in the future.

Selene Kaye, AC...

The fundamental problem here, which offering an opt-out has not cured, is that the boys' classes, the girls' classes, and the coeducational classes are not equal. It is a problem if students are in essence forced into single-sex classes as the price of participating in the most advanced courses. In addition, as the complaint describes, the evidence strongly suggests that the boys' classes and the girls' classes are being taught differently from each other, based on theories about brain differences between boys and girls. The education you receive shouldn't depend on your teacher's ideas about what is appropriate for a boy versus what is appropriate for a girl. Students deserve an education that prepares them to compete and succeed in a coeducational world. This case is not about money. It's about ensuring that all students have the opportunity to receive the best education possible.

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