TEEN BOARDING SCHOOLS
All-Boys and All-Girls Public Schools Can Now Open Under New Government Rules
New rules from the United States Department of Education go into effect on November 24, 2006 concerning single-sex public schools and classes. The changes make it easier for parents and students to choose all-girls and all-boys public schools on the elementary and high school levels.
These changes may represent the biggest shift in government policy on the issue of single-sex education in more than thirty years. The old rules allowed school districts to operate an all-girls or all-boys school only if there were a comparable school for the excluded sex. The new rules allow same-sex schools if co-educational ones of equal quality are available as a choice.
Under old Title IX rules that have been in effect since 1972, legal challenges effectively made it impossible for public school districts to operate single-sex schools. Today there are only 241 such schools out of more than 93,000. Most districts separate sexes only for sex education and physical education classes, especially ones for contact sports.
Lawsuits have shut down same-sex public schools even before they even opened. For example, when the Detroit public school system proposed three all-boys schools in 1991, a federal judge closed them even though girls could enroll and one girl actually did. In another instance in 1983, a federal judge decreed that Philadelphia's all-male Central High School had to admit girls because it offered a better program than the nearby Philadelphia High School for Girls. Even single-sex classes have faced court challenges. The Ventura Unified School District in California had to allow all students to enroll in "math-phobic" classes designed for girls after parents of boys complained.
Margaret Spelling, the United States Secretary of Education, believes that the new rules will stand up in court because of the provision that enrollment is voluntary, and because they do not take away protections against sexual and racial discrimination.
However, spokespeople from the National Organization for Women, the American Association of University Women, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are already complaining about the new rules and will no doubt challenge them in court cases.
"We are in many states looking at schools that segregate students by sex, and we are considering whether any of them are ripe for challenge," said Emily Martin, deputy director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project.
"Separate but equal has never really been equal for girls," said NOW president Kim Gandy. "Segregation was wrong in the past and it's wrong now."
Ironically, two female senators proposed the new rules. Senators Hillary Clinton and Kay Bailey Hutchinson drafted the changes in 2001 as an amendment to the No Child Left Behind law.
Spelling said that her agency researched over 2200 scholarly studies and concluded that same sex education can benefit many children
One of the first of such studies appeared in 1992 from the American Association of University Women. The now famous report, How Schools Short-Change Girls, concluded teachers call on boys more often and allow boys to dominate discussions and classroom equipment such as computers and science gear. It also concluded that girls face sexual harassment every day in public schools and particularly lose out in the areas of math and science. However, a 1998 AAWU study concluded that the answer to improving educational experiences for girls was not in creating single sex schools, but rather by improving the co-ed ones. This is still the stand the AAWU takes today.
Although many critics of same sex schools are women, some studies have concluded that single-sex schools benefit both sexes and may benefit girls more than boys. A landmark 2002 study in England suggested that girls in all-girls schools outperform students in both all-boys" and coeducational classes. Critics counter by saying that such studies are all inconclusive and do not consider class differences and other factors.
Today many people, including First Lady Laura Bush, believe that public schools now shortchange boys, rather than girls. In the past few years, there have been a spate of books such as The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff in which experts present evidence that girls now outperform boys. They point to the facts that boys are more likely to face disciplinary actions and suspensions, they are more likely to drop out of high school, they are more likely to be diagnosed as hyperactive or learning disabled, and they actually enroll in fewer Advanced Placement classes, even those in science and math. More women (70.4%) enter college than men (66.2%) and more graduate.
Proponents of single-sex schools argue that because there are learning differences between the sexes, they should learn in separate classes. For example, girls can hear seven times better than boys, for example, according to Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters. Boys tend to have shorter attention spans and develop the ability to think abstractly later than girls do. Because of these and other differences, private and religious schools have always offered single-sex programs. Secretary Spelling and others believe that students in public schools should have the same choices that private education has traditionally offered studentss.
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