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ACLU To Connecticut Officials: Single-Sex Classrooms Would Be Unconstitutional

Group's Letter Comes In Response To Report Issued Earlier This Year
Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

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HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An education group issued a report earlier this year that weighed the pros and cons of creating single-sex classrooms. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut proactively called on state officials to resist any urge to implement such a system.

The report — by Middletown-based State Education Resource Center, a nonprofit funded by the state Education Department — studied the idea of separating classes by gender to address an achievement gap in which girls score higher on standardized tests and have fewer problems in school than boys. The report, which says single-sex classrooms are gaining momentum nationally, discusses potential legal problems and says it doesn’t endorse or oppose single-sex classes.

In a letter to state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the ACLU criticized the report as inadequate and expressing concern that educators who read it would decide to try single-sex classrooms. The ACLU also urged Pryor to notify all public schools in the state that separating classes by gender would be unconstitutional.

“Our state constitution prohibits this kind of segregation,” said David McGuire, staff attorney for the state ACLU.

McGuire said he was unaware of any public school in Connecticut with single-sex classrooms.

State Department of Education officials are reviewing the ACLU’s letter, said agency spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly.

“We are pleased that the SERC report and ACLU response have catalyzed this critical dialogue,” Donnelly said. “The issue of gender equity — and the question of providing a high-quality education to our girls and young women — are highly important.”

“Single-sex schools and classes may have the potential to be effective and have their niche in 21st-century school reform,” the report says.

The National Association for Choice in Education advocates for parents’ right to decide whether their children learn in a coed or single-sex classroom.

“The best way to get girls excited about quantum mechanics turns out to be quite different from the best way to get boys excited about quantum mechanics, regardless of whether they are attending a public school or a private school,” the group says on its website. “When educators don’t understand that, the result is that many girls who might have enjoyed quantum mechanics instead think that ‘advanced physics is for guys.'”

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)