The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Wisconsin asked the federal Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Education last week to investigate a single-sex education program at a Wisconsin middle school.
The program at Somerset Middle School relies on harmful stereotypes about boys and girls. Their materials outlining differences between genders claims that girls and boys are genetically programmed to learn differently, girls hear better, boys are messy, and teams work better for boys because boys value team affiliation above friendship, among others.
“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, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It’s harmful for schools to promote these types of generalizations about boys and girls.”
The ACLU claims the program is unlawful and does not have any valid evidence to support it. It may violate Title IX, which bans discrimination in education on the basis of sex. Additionally, it cites a recent article in the journal Science that argues that sex segregation fosters stereotypes and does not improve academic performance.
A similar complaint against two other Wisconsin schools was filed last March. The complaints are part of ACLU’s national “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” campaign to gather information about sex stereotypes in single-sex education.
Media Resources: American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin 1/21/14; American Civil Liberties Union 3/28/13; Feminist Majority Foundation; Ms. magazine Fall 2013