Recently, a school in Wood County, West Virginia agreed to abolish for two years its single-sex education practice in which boys and girls were segregated to separate classrooms. This was after legal action was levied by the ACLU on behalf of a Wood County family who believed the program was sexist. This recent occurrence brings an interesting and little discussed topic to light: single-sex education. If you are from the Northeast and not West Virginia, perhaps the phrase evokes scenes of prim girls in skirts learning needlepoint or dour faced Choate boys before the Rosemary Hall addition.

But it turns out single-sex education is far more common then most think, and not just applied to the wealthy. Just last session, the ACLU of Maine worked to defeat a bill that would have legalized the single-sex education programs across the state. Thankfully, the the campaign was a success and the bill was defeated! And last year, the ACLU wrote a letter compelling the Sanford School Department to end single-sex education practice

A 2010 Feminist Minority Report stated that more than 1,000 public schools segregated at least some of their classes after 2006 when the Title IX regulations changed. Single-sex education is increasigly used as a tool to promote certain skills in young men and women respectively, and is often seen as a solution for encouraging learning and good behavior for boys low-income areas. So is single-sex education merely a harmless, occasionally helpful practice for people of all incomes? Well, this recent lawsuit in fact reveals a darker side to this method. Here's two major reasons why single-sex education can do more harm than good:

1. Single-sex schools promote gender stereotypes and homophobia - One of the most important battles in our nations war of equality is the fight for LGBT rights and affirming the civil liberties of LGBT individuals. However, if we are ever to truly absolve the rampant ignorance, bias and hostility against LGBT individuals in this country, we have to seize this weed at its roots. And the root of much homophobia, and a hot spot of verbal and physical violence against LGBT Americans is the school. Whether the torment occurs on the playground, the cafeteria or the Twittersphere, LGBT youth have been forced for years to weather barrages of insensitivity from peers who have been trained by society to fear and mock differences. Much of this ignorance comes from very set gender stereotypes that this nation has subscribed to for centuries, especially in its youth directed messages. Even after a year of existence, children are assailed with clear messages as to what path they must follow according to their gender. Girls wear pink and play with dolls and boys roll in the mud and like trucks and so on. Imagine how easy it must be to fasten to these roles and believe that anyone who colors outside the lines is an aberration, especially if schools promote these stereotypes. Single-sex schools are already in the practice of defining gender by separation which forces transgender students into the margin. But it doesn't end there. Its understood in these institutions, besides the fact that there is no solid scientific evidence, that girls and boys have vastly different learning styles which must be catered to by vastly different curricula and environments. For example, for a reading assignment at a school in Louisiana girls were given "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" while boys "Where the Red Fern Grows." This was because "boys like 'hunting' and 'dogs,' but girls prefer 'love stories.'" These schools are teaching stereotypes, stereotypes which translate to harmful assumptions, discrimination and sometimes violence.

2. Single-sex schools geared toward at risk, low-income youth are ineffective and promote racial separation - Young Latin American and Black men are identified as the most "at risk" demographic in the nation. They have the highest suspension and expulsion rates, the lowest graduation and college matriculation rates and in many cities the dropout rates for Latin American and Black men are over 50%. These are not encouraging statistics, but how do the education boards, mayors and counselors respond? Segregate these boys into single-sex education institutions, ostensibly to remove outside and potentially distracting influences. What they are doing instead is encouraging a quarantine effect, which does nothing to encourage the boys educational drive but perpetuates the notion that these boys spell trouble and affirms society's desire to steer clear. In 1998 there was only one single-sex public school in the United States, today there are over 300 fully segregated public or charter schools. Most of these news schools were specifically created for Black and Latin American boys, to "save" them by separating them from the rest of society. What's more, there is no substantive research to back any of these instituion's practices. Does an at risk young man really fare that much better without girls in the classroom? Research has proven that what in fact does make a difference in the lives of at risk youth is fostering strong community connections, providing engaging extracurriculars and creating healthy relationships with mentors and teachers. So what are these single-sex boys schools really doing? They are separating the problem, removing the demographic targeted as the most dangerous (or in the need of the most help, depending how you see it) to national education statistics. Single-sex education has become another way isolate, and ultimately ignore, our country's issues.

Read more articles here and here about the effect of single-sex education on our society.