Two Miami-Dade legislators are hoping to split some Florida elementary schools into boys-only and girls-only classes.
HB313, filed by Florida Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. (R-Hialeah) with support from state Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) describes a two-year pilot program that would set up designated "gender-separate schools" in five districts.
Students would be separated by sex during instruction in core subject areas.
"All of our students learn differently, we want to encourage diverse educational settings and options for all of our students and parents across Florida,'' Diaz said in a news release.
Proponents of single-sex classrooms claim that boys' and girls' brains are wired differently, pointing to lower reading scores among boys at certain age levels and higher graduation rates for girls.
"A lot of boys who aren’t ready for school just kind of give up early or think they’re dumb," said author and advocate Dan Kindlon, according to the Florida Current. "When boys do start to catch up intellectually, sometimes it’s too late because their self-esteem is already bad and they’ve fallen behind."
But the push for gender-specific classrooms -- there were as many as 500 across the country last year, according to one advocacy group -- is drawing fire from neuroscientists and others who feel it promotes gender stereotypes.
Doug Bonney, the legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri who successfully fought the plan in one local school district, told the Associated Press that there's no proof separating genders works.
"This isn't the right step to address higher dropout rates by boys," he told the AP. "They promote false stereotypes about sex-based differences that don't exist. Promoting sex stereotypes can harm both girls and boys."
Diaz's bill would take effect in July of 2014 if approved by the legislature in the spring.