Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Know Your Rights: Back to School Edition

First day of school (for some of us)!
There are plenty of Title IX in the classroom issues all year round, but today just a reminder about two: pregnant students and single-sex classrooms in public schools.
The latter made news in West Virginia last week when a parent challenged the single-sex classrooms at a local middle school and a federal court issued an injunction against the school.
The ACLU (which handled the West Virginia case) also issued a report this month about single-sex classrooms in public schools and the educational messages being sent in them including the teaching of "male-hood" and "female-hood" by telling boys to become the "warrior, protector, and provider" while the girls spend their time "writing, applying and doing make-up and hair, art."
The Feminist Majority Foundation released its report on single-sex education at the beginning of the summer and pointed out that the percentage of public schools with single-sex classrooms remains small, though the popularity of the trend is concerning. Especially helpful from the FMF report was the list of four major concerns and violations the organization found including1) weak justifications for single-sex education; 2) inequality among the classrooms as seen in student-teacher ratios and the perpetuation of gendered stereotypes; 3) lack of viable opt-outs and; 4) lack of evaluation methods to determine efficacy of single-sex classrooms.
Also, as we noted earlier in the summer, single-sex classrooms are not the only ways in which gender stereotypes are being perpetuated. Many single-sex activities exist in co-ed environments that can also be damaging. 
Regarding the treatment and rights of pregnant students, the National Women's Law Center has a comprehensive report available on their website.  In addition to the report, readers can find a toolkit, a wallet-sized card listing the rights of pregnant and parenting students, as well as a fact sheet for schools.
In the wake of the news about pregnancy testing of female students in a Louisiana charter school, we think the NWLC report and accompanying resources are both helpful and timely.