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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Editorials

Parents, not ACLU, know best

Published:

Leave it to the ACLU to attack an education program that is helping students and pleasing parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims the Hillsborough County school district’s single-gender schools are discriminatory. But this looks to us to be about leftists trying to take control of public schools, not discrimination.

As the Tribune’s Erin Kourkounis reports, the ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, calling for a federal and state investigation into the district.

“The Hillsborough School District has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to implement a hidden curriculum promoting the theory that boys and girls are so fundamentally different that they need to be taught using radically different teaching methods.”

What nonsense. It is hardly discrimination to recognize that boys and girls may respond differently when in a single-sex environment than when in a coed class.

Some researchers say girls are more likely to pursue sciences, with boys more likely to show interest in the humanities, when they are separated.

What’s relevant here is that the two single-gender magnet schools Hillsborough opened in 2011 are improving student performance. And participation is completely voluntary. Parents choose whether they want their children to attend single-gender schools — or the single-gender classrooms the district offers at some schools.

Since Franklin Middle Magnet School became Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy, its state grading has increased from a D to a B.

Since Ferrell Middle Magnet became Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy, its state grade has risen from a C to an A.

And as Kourkounis found, the schools reported discipline problems decreased and attendance improved. The achievement gap between minority and white students narrowed, and students who speak English as a second language showed progress.

But the ACLU doesn’t approve, so now the district must legally defend these academic achievements.

Obviously what is best for students is not a priority for the ACLU. The organization’s actions are part of statewide effort to curtail single-sex schools, even as the Florida Legislature adopted a measure this year that encourages school districts to experiment with single-sex schools. The legislation, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, requires districts with such schools to provide training on single-gender instruction and to study how students perform.

But the ACLU is not interested in such common-sense approaches to offering families more education options.

Earlier this year, ACLU strategist Allie Bohm told Gina Jordan of Stateimpact Florida, which reports on education issues: “I don’t know that parents should have the opportunity to give their students an inferior education.”

In other words, the ACLU, not parents, knows what is best for their children.

Nevermind that the early results in Hillsborough indicate that education in the single-sex schools is anything but inferior.

Single-sex schools may not be the best choice for most children. But parents, not activist attorneys, should make that call.

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