The Madison Metropolitan School Board and the Urban League of Greater Madison have proposed using state education funds to create Madison Preparatory school – a charter school geared toward low-income, minority students that would separate classrooms and activities by sex. The ACLU and the ACLU of Wisconsin have been working to advise the school district to remain within the law as it considers the Madison Prep proposal.
The ACLU supports efforts in Madison to reduce racial disparities in education. However, coeducational classes are not the cause of the racial achievement gap, and schools and programs that segregate boys and girls are not the answer. Moreover, there is no valid evidence that separating students by sex improves academic achievement.
There is no reason the School Board could not approve the same type of rigorous academically focused school without separating children by sex. The ACLU is therefore requesting that the School Board condition its approval of Madison Prep on its becoming a fully coeducational institution.
The Madison School Board will violate the law if it approves a public school that is segregated on the basis of sex, if the school shortchanges girls, or if the educational programming is based on sex stereotypes. These stereotypes include the discredited theory that boys and girls learn differently and require different teaching methods—a theory that is widely held by proponents of single-sex education, including Madison Prep’s backers.
Students should be taught based on their individual needs, not based on whether they are a boy or a girl. Every child deserves to be educated in a safe, challenging, and respectful environment free of harmful stereotypes, which limit opportunities for boys and girls alike.
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