The ACLU has asked federal authorities to investigate a single-sex education program at a Wisconsin middle school for possible violations in gender equality.
The civil rights group said the program at Somerset Middle School in St. Croix County relies on harmful gender stereotypes and deprives students of equal education opportunities
“There is no solid evidence supporting the assertions about supposed differences between boys’ and girls’ brains that underlie these programs, and there is absolutely no evidence that teaching boys and girls differently leads to any educational improvements,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.
Documents obtained through open records laws show the school uses different teaching methods for boys and girls, most of whom are separated into single-sex home rooms, in core subjects, extracurricular activities and nonacademic periods such as lunch and recess, the ACLU says.
The group also expressed doubt that participation in the program was truly voluntary and asked the federal Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education to investigate.
The ACLU said the school produced no valid evidence that sex-differentiated teaching improved education achievement or met its vague goals, and instead promoted unlawful and overly broad stereotypes about the interests and abilities of boys and girls.
Among those generalizations, the ACLU says, the school claims “girls hear better,” “boys are messy” and “boys value team affiliation above friendship.”
The school also justifies its program by claiming that girls and boys are “genetically programmed” to learn differently” and that boys notice motion and girls notice bright colors and people, the ACLU says.
The program is heavily influenced by Dr. Leonard Sax, a physician and psychologist who says girls should not be given time limits on tests because they do badly under stress, and author Michael Gurian, who says girls do math as well as boys only a few days a month due to the estrogen surge during their menstrual cycle.
The ACLU says those theories have been widely discredited, including by a recent article published by the journal Science.
The civil rights group asked federal authorities to investigate and enforce federal laws against gender-based discrimination in schools.
[Girls in classroom via Shutterstock]