ACLU supports non-sexist approach to schools

The recent commentary, "Md. should support single-sex schools" (March 12), fundamentally misstates the ACLU position on single-sex education.

ACLU's "Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes" campaign targets single-sex programs across the country that are based on sweeping generalizations about how boys and girls behave and learn: girls are forced to sit quietly while boys are encouraged to run around and throw balls; girls' classrooms are more dimly lit than boys' on the theory that boys do better in brighter light; girls read books about relationships while boys read adventure novels. These faulty theories have been debunked by experts and have never been shown to result in any meaningful improvements.

What is more, our campaign focuses exclusively on public schools, not private religious institutions.

Teachers should tailor their instructions based on children's individual capabilities, not their sex. This is not just sound policy — it's required by federal and state laws including the Maryland Equal Rights Amendment that guarantee equal academic opportunities for boys and girls and prohibit teaching based on sex stereotypes. That is exactly what is at play in the programs the ACLU has challenged in states such as West Virginia and Louisiana.

Since sex-based learning difference theories have been thoroughly discredited, single-sex education proponents have turned to rhetoric about "parental choice." We all agree that we need better educational options, but these should not include programs premised on stereotypes that limit opportunities for boys and girls alike.

The ACLU and our state offices, including the ACLU of Maryland, work to ensure that all students in public schools have sufficient funding for academics and facilities as well as experienced teachers so that children can meet state standards. This is a more research-based path toward school improvement.

Galen Sherwin, New York

The writer is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project.

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