BOISE - The Middleton School District has found to be in violation of federal law for segregating students by gender at Middleton Heights Elementary School.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights concluded that single-sex classrooms at the school violated Title IX, a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education.
The finding came in response to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Idaho.
"What was occurring was boys and girls were being treated differently, which is now allowed by the law," Leo Morales, ACLU Idaho executive director said.
The school district claimed that boys and girls learn differently and they needed to be separated and taught using different methods.
Students at Middleton Heights Elementary School have been segregated on the basis of sex in kindergarten through third grade.
The Middleton School District stated the segregation was for the benefit of the children. The district says it allowed for students to focus on areas where they struggled, specifically girls with math and science and boys on reading.;
However, the U.S Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights ruled the school couldn't justify that both girls or boys were underachieving in those areas.
"We are pleased that Middleton Heights Elementary will return to a coeducational model," said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. "School children in Middleton Heights Elementary deserve educational improvements, but there is no evidence that single-sex classrooms are effective in improving outcomes. Strategies for improving instruction should be based on solid evidence, not pseudoscience and stereotypes about the way boys and girls learn and behave."
In 2012, the district did give parents the option to enroll their children in a same gender class, which is why some are disappointed in the ruling.
"I don't think it's any different in parents choosing to enroll their children in a charter school or a private school, or a religious school. It's their choice," parent Alicia Hollinger said.
Both Hollinger's son and daughter were enrolled in the same gender classes at Middleton Heights Elementary, classes she said helped in their studies.
"I feel that they just really excelled in that environment. Now this year my daughter, she's in third grade and is in a coed class and she's doing well, but I think she did better before," she said.
Middleton Heights Elementary School has agreed to return to coeducational classrooms beginning this school year. The district will also institute training for all administration and staff related to Title IX, and remain under the supervision of the Department of Education at least through the end of the 2019–2020 school year.
Middleton School District Superintendent Dr. Josh Middleton did release a statement to KTVB regarding the ruling.
"The Middleton School District recently reached a resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights regarding instruction in single gender classrooms. There are currently no single gender classrooms nor is there any intention of having single gender classes in the immediate future. The district acknowledges that if the practice was to be implemented again, OCR approved training would be required. In the meantime, the outstanding educators of Middleton School District strive to meet and exceed its mission of 'Every Child Learning Every Day.'"
Copyright 2016 KTVB