Single-gender classes ending amidst lawsuit threat

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Registration for next year's classes is under way at Central High school in La Crosse, but two particular classes will not be offered.

The idea to offer single-gender classes in English and algebra at Central High School started in 2009.

School officials thought it would be a good option for students to learn in a different environment if they wanted to participate.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union says these classes are breaking the law.

At Central, student success doesn't come in a one-sized fits all.

"We can't expect students to learn the same way all the time," said Jeff Fleig, Central High School principal. "Students have got to have options to choose."


And for the past two school years, some of the options students could choose from were taking first-year English and algebra courses in the traditional co-ed classrooms or in single-gender classrooms.

"We really believed it could be a nice option for kids," said Fleig.

The idea to provide the option for single-gendere classrooms was something La Crosse School District Superintendent Randy Nelson said took a lot of careful consideration.

"We knew as we were looking at the potential, to support these classes the way we were going to in single-gender, that we were running into a gray area with this because there's certainly been a lot of court cases etc.," said Nelson. "But in studying those court cases, we felt like we were in pretty strong footing to be able to move forward."

Students learned the exact same curriculum whether they chose to be in a co-ed or single-gender classroom.

Then- sophomore Kabao Yang said in 2010 she loved having the option to choose.

"I thought it would be easier for me to be with all the girls, and when you're with all the girls, it's easier to concentrate and it's easier to be yourself," Yang said in 2010.

Fleig said the school continued to offer students the option because of its growing popularity.

This past fall, the ACLU contacted the school saying same-gender classrooms are against the law.

The ACLU said it was, "…in large part on ‘overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, [and] preferences' of boys and girls."

The ACLU also threatened the school with a lawsuit if it didn't stop offering the classes.

Both Nelson and Fleig disagree with the ACLU and said while the classes were a valuable option for students, the benefits of fighting a lawsuit didn't out weigh the costs.

"We're going to be OK," said Fleig. "We're still going to take care of all students at Central High School. We're going to do our best job to educate them all and make sure they're career-and college-ready."

Students who signed up to be in the single gender classrooms will still finish out the school year in the classes.

Nelson said while they won't be offered next year, he hasn't ruled out the option for the future, after more academic research has been done.

The two classes offered were all-girl classrooms.

They offered the same for boys, but there wasn't enough interest.

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