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Title IX goes from court to classroom

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Bob Moon: It was 35 years tomorrow that Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, was created. This past fall, the Department of Education relaxed the law. Hundreds of schools across the country are taking advantage of the new rules, offering boys- and girls-only classes beyond gym and sex ed. As Sally Herships tells us, some are worried the changes could lead to stereotyping and discrimination

Sally Herships: I’m here at the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem.

Teacher: Where are you ladies supposed to be?

It’s a public school just for girls.

Amber Monserrate: In my old school they used to call me Rapunzel, because of my long hair. And here, a lot of people know me more for my personality than for my hair.

The Department of Education says students like eighth-grader Amber Monserrate may learn better in single-sex environments. So last fall, regulations were changed, allowing educators more flexibility to provide single-sex education.

But critics say under the new system, boys and girls could be taught based on different and questionable theories held by teacher-trainers.

Emily Martin of the ACLU says a system based on exclusion by sex could be limiting and dangerous.

Emily Martin: They teach things like “Girls should never be given a time limit on a test, because girl’s brains don’t function well under stress — while boys should be kept under stress all the time, because boys do their best thinking when they’re under stress.” If girls never learn to take a test with a time limit, they’re not going to be well-prepared for a high-stress job in the real world. If boys are always being taught by a teacher who won’t smile at them, then I think a lot of boys will not succeed in that environment.

Dr. Leonard Sax, a supporter of the changes, says teaching kids separately can break down stereotypes.

Leonard Sax: We are the pro-choice voice in this movement. We don’t think that any lawyer or any interest group knows what is best for every child. We think that parents should have a range of choices. And parents who think that single-sex education is best for their child should have that option available.

But what do students think about single-sex classrooms? I asked junior Alana Jenkins at the Young Women’s School in Harlem:

Alana Jenkins: It can’t be equal to a co-ed school because, I don’t know, it’s so much better.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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