More Florida students should be able to attend classes (or schools) that teach only boys or only girls, a Florida House panel decided Tuesday.
There are 54 gender-specific schools in Florida now, including Woodward Avenue Elementary in DeLand.
The goal, he said, is to "spread the idea across the state" and then collect data on how students in gender-specific classes do.
But they also have proved controversial, with some advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing they promote discrimination and are set up based on gender stereotypes.
But others say such classes help break down those stereotypes, with girls in all-girls classes more likely to stick with math and science and boy sin such classes more like to pursue art, music and drama.
A Broward County school district official told the committee the single-gender schools in her county have been successful. Children in those classes have done better on state tests, for example, likely because they are not distracted by the opposite sex, she said.
The bill would require that districts that start new gender-specific schools open them to all their students, even if they live outside that campus' attendance zone. It also requires that they offer training to teachers and administrators, and that they share data on student performance with the Florida Department of Education.
"This is a choice, not a mandated program, which parents can opt in and out of ," Diaz said.
The Woodward Avenue school has offered single-sex classes for about 10 years. Those classes are optional, with parents able to choose them or regular coed classes, said Nancy Wait, spokesman for the Volusia County school district.
So which grades at school have boys-or-girls-only classes varies by school year, depending on parent interest.
The school partners with Stetson University, which provides training on single-sex education to the staff and also conducts research.
"It's been a very successful program," Wait said.
The bill passed out of the subcomittee unanimously.
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