ACLU Says Single-Sex Education Proposal Gets Failing Grade

March 3, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Responding to the announcement of a new federal proposal encouraging single-sex public schooling, the American Civil Liberties Union today noted that, by the Secretary of Education’s own admission, the research is incomplete on how such sex-separation impacts the quality of education.

The ACLU urged the Department of Education, at a minimum, to at least do its homework before proposing weakening civil rights protections.

“Not only will the proposed change weaken equal rights protections for schoolchildren, but Secretary Paige himself admits that the research on which his proposal is based is incomplete,” said LaShawn Y. Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Before we go about tinkering with our kids’ futures, let’s make sure the facts are in.”

The Department of Education announced the proposed regulation today that would weaken Title IX civil rights protections — which ban sex discrimination in tax funded education — by broadening schools’ ability to create single-sex classes.

In addition to inclusive research, the ACLU said that the proposed change is unconstitutional. It fails, the ACLU says, to offer a compelling justification for how it will improve educational opportunities for American students while ensuring that there will be no discriminatory impact.

Many studies by groups like the American Association of University Women show factors such as class size, teacher training, funding, parental involvement, disciplinary policy and curricula decisions are far more effective than single-sex education in improving the quality of a student’s education.

The proposal also contradicts President Bush’s rhetoric when signing the No Child Left Behind education reform package. In the context of education reform, Bush said, “We’re going to spend more money, more resources, but they’ll be directed at methods that work, not feel-good methods, not sound-good methods, but methods that actually work.” But, the ACLU said, the current proposal is not based on any conclusive research about how to better educate children.

Title IX, which passed in 1972, has been instrumental for more than 30 years in closing what was a huge gender gap in education in America. In many observable ways, the ACLU said, its prohibition on sex discrimination has had results that range beyond education into broader social equality for women. Any change to that law promises to stymie further progress.

“Women in America currently enjoy more opportunity than they ever have in the history of this nation,” Warren said. “This progress to equality could not have been possible without laws like Title IX – we should not weaken it without a truly compelling reason.”

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