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LAUSD offers first single-gender school

October 5, 2009 12:08:09 AM PDT
The L.A. Unified School District cut the ribbon on the first school to offer single-gender instruction on Monday. Boys and girls attend the Young Oak Kim Academy (YOKA), but they don't have classes together. Inside a new high-tech building, girls and boys are placed in separate classrooms, but students are allowed to mix during breaks.

The magnet school focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

The school has been in session for about a month, but the official opening was celebrated Monday. The middle school students sat in the auditorium, girls on one side and boys on the other.

The goal is to build confidence in the girls and get the boys to focus.

The concept of the sex-segregated classes stems from studies, cited by administrators, showing middle school students process information differently and are easily distracted in a mixed gender environment. Researchers also found that girls start losing their interest in math and science, and by high school their skills drop off precipitously.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is against the idea of a single gender instruction school. The ACLU says there is no such thing as separate but equal. Activists argue that gender separated classes undermine Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, requiring federally funded schools to treat males and females equally.

The National Organization for Women released the following statement:

"Contrary to what supporters are saying, research does not show that gender is an accurate, consistent or even useful determinant of educational needs. Why not put this misplaced energy into offering all of our students smaller classes and better teacher to student ratios."

However, the principal says he already sees a difference with calmer classrooms.

Maria Relosa, a parent of three, says gender segregation will work for her son. She says she sees the difference and likes how the school handles the students.

"I have three kids and I've volunteered in the school, you know, all the time and I've observed the difference, cuz I have two girls and a boy, and the attention span, it's different," said Relosa.

"Since their attention span is not as long, so they do some other activities in between, you know, teaching the kids their lessons, which is good. You know, it keeps them focused," added Relosa.

Administrators say parents can opt to send their children to traditional mixed-gender school if they do not like the concept of gender-separated classes.

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