Gender & Sex Discrimination
Gender & Sex Discrimination: Education
Women’s Law Project and ACLU Applaud PPS Agreement to End Gender Segregation at Westingthouse Academy
Calling it “a step toward genuine reform,” women’s rights advocates at the Women’s Law Project, ACLU of Pennsylvania, and ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project applauded the decision of the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) to end its recent experiment with gender segregation for core academic classes taught at Westinghouse Academy, a grade 6-12 public school. The agreement to end single-sex classes in all core subjects at Westinghouse effective no later than February 1, 2012, was announced at a school board meeting on November 7, 2011, following months of discussions between PPS and the advocacy organizations, which were initiated at the request of parents of Westinghouse students. If approved by the PPS school board, the agreement will avert the filing of a federal civil rights complaint against the school district with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
“We are very pleased that PPS is taking a step toward genuine reform by voluntarily eliminating what we believe to be illegal sex discrimination,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office in downtown Pittsburgh. “This decision indicates that the current administration does not subscribe to the notion that boys and girls are so innately different that they should be taught separately and differently,” she continued.
Documents produced by PPS described a teaching philosophy at odds with basic principles of gender equality, for example, documents referring to “male-hood and female-hood defined space,” intended to nurture characteristics of “warrior, protector, and provider” for boys and, for girls, “space/time to explore things that young women like [including] writing, applying and doing make-up & hair, art.”
The school district had planned to train Westinghouse teachers using Dr. Leonard Sax’s Why Gender Matters. Sax, a proponent of gender-segregated public education, teaches that girls and boys are so fundamentally different that they must be taught differently. Sax’s writings contain broad stereotypes about boys’ and girls’ interests and abilities, including the assertion that girls react badly to stress and should not be given timed tests, whereas boys should be strictly disciplined and made to compete against each other.
“The school district can now concentrate on reforms that make sense,” Frietsche said. In addition to eliminating single-gender classes at Westinghouse, the agreement covers an array of reforms including:
“This is a victory for all of the students at Westinghouse. We commend PPS Superintendent Linda Lane for the leadership she has demonstrated,” Frietsche concluded.
Women's Law Project, 125 S. 9th Street, Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (215-928-9801) email@example.com