Broward News

Broward Schools Teach Boys and Girls Separately Because of "Testosterone" and "the Menstrual Cycle," ACLU Complaint Says

Could it be true that "boys are better than girls in math because their bodies receive daily surges of testosterone, while girls have similar skills only 'a few days per month' when they experience 'increased estrogen during the menstrual cycle'?"

That's just one bit of dubious pseudoscience upon which some Broward schools are basing their teaching, according to a formal complaint filed yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, asked for a federal investigation into school districts in Broward, Volusia, and Hernando counties. Some schools in these counties are separating children by gender and using differing gender-based teaching methods, thus violating federal antidiscrimination law, the ACLU alleges.

The complaint alleges that boys and girls were separated and taught differently at six local coed public schools -- Charles Drew Elementary, Dillard Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Boyd A. Anderson High, Everglades High, and Nova High. The records obtained by the ACLU show that since 2012, the Broward County School District held at least 29 single-sex classes, involving 660 students, though these students were given the choice to opt-in. At Franklin Academy, a charter school, single-sex classes are part of the school's design, and students there are offered no alternative.

The ACLU found that the Broward School District paid more than $23,000 to the Gurian Institute for teacher trainings and materials.

According to the lawsuit, the Gurian Institute's founder, Michael Gurian, has said:

that boys are better than girls in math because their bodies receive daily surges of testosterone, while girls have similar skills only "a few days per month" when they experience "increased estrogen during the menstrual cycle"; that boys are abstract thinkers and so are naturally good at things like philosophy and engineering, while girls are concrete thinkers and should be given objects that they can touch to learn about math and science; and that boys should be given Nerf baseball bats with which to hit things so they can release tension during class.

The lawsuit also claims that the district also relied heavily on the writings of Leonard Sax, founder of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education (NASSPE) and author of Why Gender Matters,.

From the lawsuit:

Sax argues that: • Teachers should smile at girls and look them in the eye. However, teachers must not look boys directly in the eye or smile at them.

• Boys do well under stress, and girls do badly, so girls should not be given time limits on tests.

• Girls should be allowed to take their shoes off in class because this helps them relax and think better.

• Literature teachers should not ask boys about characters' emotions, and should only focus on what the characters actually did. But teachers should focus on characters' emotions in teaching literature to girls.

• Boys should receive strict discipline based on asserting power over them. Young boys can be spanked. Girls should never be spanked, but instead should be disciplined by appealing to their empathy.

• A boy who likes to read, who does not enjoy contact sports, and who does not have a lot of close male friends has a problem, even if he thinks he is happy [should be] firmly disciplined, required to spend time with "normal males," and made to play sports.

Franklin Academy's own website states that "boys' and girls' brains are wired differently" and that "different genders have different brain development. For example, research shows that girls hear better and that girls and boys respond to stress differently."

As an example of discriminatory teaching, the ACLU pointed out a lesson plan about fractions in which girls make a trail mix recipe and have to write about it, while boys make slime and play with it but have no corresponding responsibility to do a written exercise.

The ACLU also cited schedules that show boys given "classroom jobs" while girls are assigned to "clean up."

Also, from the complaint:

In the primary schedules, girls are specifically assigned bathroom breaks and the handbook says it may sometimes be necessary to "'hurry' the girls along" during these breaks "because they will check their hair, how their clothes look, or just talk to their classmates." In the intermediate schedules, both genders have assigned restroom breaks, but the boys' break includes a "silent speed ball game" which the girls' break does not incorporate.

The ACLU says there's no proof that segregating kids by gender has any relationship to achieving the school district's stated goals.

The complaint states that the programs "violate Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination in federally-funded education programs and activities based on sex."

Calls to both the ACLU and Franklin Academy were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon. A public affairs specialist at the School District was not yet familiar with the complaint.

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Deirdra Funcheon