The ACLU recently released a report documenting the initial findings from the ACLU’s multi-state “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” campaign. The report was prepared for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to highlight the widespread legal violations uncovered by our investigation and to underscore the need for greater public accountability and oversight by state authorities, and for more enforcement efforts at the federal level.
ACLU affiliate offices around the country sent public records requests to states, school districts, and individual schools seeking documents related to the implementation of single-sex education programs in 15 states—Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Our early findings demonstrate that single-sex education programs in coeducational, public schools are widely out of compliance with the stringent legal requirements of Title IX. The report calls on the Department of Education to rescind its 2006 regulations, which have been widely misinterpreted by school administrators as permitting single-sex programs based on stereotypes, or at least to provide guidance to schools that programs based on stereotypes are illegal.
There is strong evidence from the documents produced and from news reports that teachers in the single-sex classes incorporated into their teaching stereotyped attitudes about boys’ and girls’ purportedly different interests, talents, and capacities. For instance,
- Committee meeting notes of a community working group for single-sex programs in secondary schools in Pennsylvania documented a desire among the participants to ensure that students would experience “male-hood and female-hood defined space” exhibiting characteristics of “warrior, protector, and provider” for boys and giving girls “space/time to explore things that young women like [including] writing, applying and doing make-up & hair, art.”
- A Virginia school stated that “[b]oys prefer reading material that is non-fiction, or if fiction, adventure oriented. In math, boys can get interested in ‘pure’ math and geometry, without linking it to the real world applications. The female brain does not prefer such action. … girls prefer reading fiction material that does not necessarily contain much action. In math, girls generally prefer a real world application that shows them why it is meaningful. They are generally not interested in ‘pure’ math for its own sake.”
- A Wisconsin school district collected materials that trained teachers to ask boys about literature, “What would you DO if…” while asking girls, “How might/would you FEEL if…?”; motivating boys with “hierarchy!!! Competition!!!” while motivating girls by getting them to “care”; and recognizing that boys like “[b]eing ‘On Top’ … Being a Winner!!” while girls like “[b]eing ‘Accepted’, liked, loved!!!”
The ACLU report shows lack of compliance with these requirements is widespread. Some schools required students who did not wish to participate in separate classes to enroll in another school, while others failed to alert parents that they at least theoretically had the ability to opt out of the classes.
Read the full report: Preliminary Findings of ACLU “Teach Kinds, Not Stereotypes” Campaign
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.