Georgia brawl over single-sex school plan
Greene County is poised to divide public schools by gender, but a court challenge is likely.
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"We looked at the data [on single-sex schools], and it was very exciting, and with the overwhelming support of the board, we wanted to move forward," says board chair Janice Gallimore. "The problem is that a lot of people here are happy with the status quo."Skip to next paragraph
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In retrospect, officials admit, they may have moved too fast. Since last month's vote, two of the five school board members have rescinded their support, leaving the plan's supporters with a bare 3-to-2 majority.
Shawn McCollough, the district superintendent, told residents at a board meeting Monday that he is revising the single-sex plan. He's likely to include some choice at the elementary level.
Mr. McCollough says he thinks that a quiet majority supports the plan, but many parents have been vocal about their opposition. "Right now, I have no choice," says Ms. Miller.
Proponents interpret the law to say that choice is necessary only when there are discrepancies in educational opportunities and facilities – a nonfactor, he says, in a small district like Greensboro with only one high school and one middle school. "What makes this unusual is a system this small is contemplating a total move in this direction," says Phil Hartley, district attorney for Greene County.
If the current plan moves forward, it is likely to be challenged in court. Opponents say the plan is illegal since new Title IX regulations passed in October 2006 mandate that parents have a choice in whether to send their kids to single-sex schools. So far, Greensboro is the only district to attempt to mandate single-sex schools.
"The key component of those regulations is that a parent won't be forced to send his or her child to a single-sex school or classroom, that it has to be voluntary," says Rosemary Salomone, a law professor at St. John's University in New York and a coauthor of the federal code.
The debate in Greensboro comes at a time when single-sex public schools are flourishing in the US, growing from about 12 in 2002 to more than 360 today.
In the South especially, conservative school boards have been swayed by nascent research that has shown some differences in learning styles between boys and girls.
Other national experts disagree, not necessarily with the results of single-sex education, but the premise.
"Policies that are going to purposely segregate students by race or gender or income or religion is antithetical to what American public education is supposed to be about, which is to bring children of different backgrounds together," says Mr. Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation.