- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

DALLAS — For an increasing number of public schools, the formula for a better education requires a little arithmetic: divide the girls from the boys.

That’s just fine with Kristielle Pedraza, a 13-year-old who says she will not miss the boys while she attends the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas’ first all-girls public school and one of a growing number of such schools nationally.

“Usually, it’s the guys that distract … the whole class. They’re usually the class clowns,” said Kristielle, who entered the seventh grade last week. “With no guys in the school, I can know we will really get busy without much distraction.”

At least 10 single-sex public schools were to open this fall in five states — Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina.

Advocates say separating the sexes can improve learning by easing the peer pressure that can lead to misbehavior as well as low self-esteem among girls.

“John Kerry, George W. Bush, his father and Al Gore all went to all-boys schools. We don’t think that’s a coincidence,” said Dr. Leonard Sax, a Maryland physician and psychologist who founded a nonprofit group that advocates single-sex public education. “We think single-sex education really empowers girls and boys from very diverse backgrounds to achieve.”

Some women’s groups and the American Civil Liberties Union say segregation of any kind is wrong.

“We think segregation has historically always resulted in second-class citizens,” said Terry O’Neill, a National Organization for Women vice president.

The number of U.S. public schools offering single-sex classes jumped from four to 140 in the past eight years, Dr. Sax said.

Advocates said they expect the number to increase now that the Education Department has announced plans to change its enforcement of the landmark discrimination law Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in schools.

“Many school districts wanted to offer this option, but they feared being sued by interest groups,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who fought for an amendment in the No Child Left Behind Act that encouraged districts to experiment with single-sex education.

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