Blog of Rights

Another High School Rejects Stereotypes and Returns to Coeducation

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:06pm

Central High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin has an anti-discrimination policy that reads pretty much like any other high school's anti-discrimination policy: It is the policy of the School District of La Crosse . . . that no person on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability, may be denied . . . participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any curricular . . . program . . . And, we're happy to report that Central High is finally back in the business of living up to its policy.

You see, back in October, we had to remind the La Crosse School District of their commitment to equality and fairness. Despite their policy promising not to discriminate, the Central High had been singling out girls for a girls-only English class and a girls-only algebra class in ninth grade. Even though the Constitution and Title IX set a high bar for justifying sex separation in schools, the district never articulated why the girls needed to be taught math and English separately from the boys. But it did tell parents that if they wanted to learn more about the single-sex programming, they should visit the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE) website.

You remember NASSPE and its founder, Leonard Sax? He's the chief proponent of single-sex education whose theories have been characterized as "pseudoscience," and who was recently accused by a federal court in West Virginia of leading schools "astray." He trains teachers, for example, to speak loudly and directly to boys using surnames, but softly to girls, using terms of endearment. He further advocates that because of purported differences in the ways boys and girls process emotion, English teachers should not ask boys about characters' emotions, but should only focus on what the characters actually did, while they should focus on characters' relationships and emotions when teaching girls. That must have been one touchy-feely girls-only English class. As an ACLU investigation recently documented, these troubling theories are prevalent in single-sex classes being taught in schools around the country.

Fortunately, there's now one less school on that list; we received a message on Monday, January 28 that as a result of ACLU's October letter to La Crosse School District, "there will be no single-gender course offerings starting next school year (2013 2014)."

This is wonderful news, and we're grateful to La Crosse for doing the right thing. Of course, the real winners are the Central High students, particularly the ninth grade girls, who will, starting in the fall, have classes that teach all students as individuals, not as stereotypes.

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