ACLU files complaint against Barron School District over discrim - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

ACLU files complaint against Barron School District over discrimination practices

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- The American Civil Liberties Union has asked federal education officials to investigate single-sex classes that were held at Riverview Middle School.

"The research shows that people felt better about themselves," points out Barron School District Superintendent Monti Hallberg.

The Barron School District woke up Friday morning to a complaint concerning sex discrimination practices in the classroom.  The ACLU has asked a federal agency to look into whether Riverview Middle School legally separated boys and girls into single-sex classes during the 2011-2012 school year.

"The concern here is that these programs are explicitly premised on the flawed and disproven notion that boys and girls are so fundamentally different and that they learn in such fundamentally different ways that they have to be separated in the classroom and then taught using radically different teaching methods," says ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Galen Sherwin.

The district says students weren't forced to take same-sex classes.  It was an option parents could take advantage of if they felt their child would learn better in that type of atmosphere.

"It was for fifth grade only and we did it only for a couple periods a day; it was math and language arts," Hallberg remembers.

Hallberg says they got the idea from other districts in the state. 

"We visited some schools actually that were doing it at the time and our teachers went over and looked at that and they looked at the research," he says.  "So that's how it got started a couple years ago."

Somerset was one of those districts.  Somerset says it's been holding single sex classes for the last decade and has never received a complaint.

"What we have found over time is the academics remain about the same," recalls Somerset Superintendent Randy Rosburg.  "But the change comes in their social interaction, their independence, their self-confidence; a willingness to be able to feel as if they can talk without being judged or picked on and teased."

The ACLU recognizes the classes were not mandatory, but says just because one district is doing it doesn't make it okay for others to follow suit.

"We would hope that the federal agency that's charged with enforcing this important law against sex discrimination in education will enforce that law and make clear to these schools that these programs are not lawful and they will be discontinued," explains Sherwin.

Hallberg was out of the state Friday and says he hasn't gotten a chance to look at the ACLU's complaint.  He says he plans to review it with the district's lawyers.  The district is not holding same-sex classes this year because it says it couldn't come up with equal numbers between boys and girls.

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