Single-Sex Schooling and Gender/Sexual Identities: How Do We Support LGBTQIA+ Students During Development?

Hello all,

For our very last blog post of the semester, I thought we would be able to take the time to do some reflection and see what that looks like in the field of Psychology. For my child development class, I have been working on a toolkit for the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, in partnership with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. This toolkit will include evidence based-recommendations for teachers to access during their teaching careers in order to achieve what this class has been working to achieve: as much inclusion and support as possible.

In the last couple of Child Development classes, we have carefully read empirical and anecdotal articles about single-sex schooling and the effects, or non-effects, it has on student performance and sense of belonging, to name a couple, as well as how single-sex schooling may not be backed by scientific evidence to conclude that single-sex structure improves student academic achievement.

Along the way, we reviewed how psychologically, mentally, and emotionally challenging it might be for students who do not conform to cisgender, heteronormative identities. The LGBTQIA+ community will tend to feel less of a sense of belonging, and the single-sex structure and heteronormativity may discount and devalue their identities, which is very detrimental to children and young adolescents’ development.

Dr. Hunt discussed how some Republican senators are pushing to pass a bill that bans LGBTQIA+ instruction in the form of literature/texts, videos/documentaries, and such. This is very disheartening for many reasons. Recently, I have thought about teaching in Nashville, where I am closer to an environment of interest and some family. I, myself, also identify as a gay cisgender male. So, to hear about what has been happening in Florida and in Tennessee with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the banning of LGBTQIA+-supportive instruction gives a little sense of hopelessness for those with political power and disappointment that our careers are in the hands of white men in power.

Read one or both of the articles below, and let me know what your thoughts are about everything that has been discussed and anything that you want to bring in from the class.

Thank you guys, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Luis

6 thoughts on “Single-Sex Schooling and Gender/Sexual Identities: How Do We Support LGBTQIA+ Students During Development?

  1. Luis, thank you for your personal, thoughtful and interesting blog post!

    I have mixed thoughts on the topic but not for reasons you might think. I am 100% for inclusion as broadly defined by including all, however, what I find I am torn on is the “research”. Honestly, for years, I have grappled with the idea of research and fact being absolute. I know this really isn’t your point but what bothers me is the idea that one can find research and support for almost anything. My dad was a medical doctor and for years, spoke with my husband, a lawyer, about the ease with which one could always find an “expert” to give an agreeing opinion with whatever side you chose to be on. As we discussed the importance of including and incorporating LBGTQ literature into Elementary Classrooms, I believe we could find “expert” opinions and “research” to support including it as well as, sadly, opposing it which is bothersome to me. As I read through the articles you included, I personally agree with many points and find the research fascinating; however, I know there is an equal amount of data supporting the opposing views and for children (and adults like me) I find that a difficult idea to reconcile. How can there be supportive research – quality, reputable and proven research – supporting opposing views on a topic? How are we supposed to know which to trust? It cannot just be the research that aligns with our points of view. So, yes, while I agree with your very important point, I can only imagine those who oppose it, would argue and have data to support their argument.

    Last semester, as we were studying John Hattie, I remember being quite stunned to see “inclusion” listed in the category less than .4 for effect size meaning it doesn’t accelerate student learning when my entire educational background for Therapeutic Recreation had been 100% support of inclusion for both the benefit of the child with and without disability. While some might argue academic success and emotional growth go hand-in-hand, I believe Hattie was hyper focused on education and therefore, supported the idea that inclusion was not a factor that accelerated academic achievement. Conflicting ideas supported by research and data is a slippery slope in my opinion. I think it’s a scary time for educators, parents and students! Thank you though for your very informative blog post.

    https://visible-learning.org/2022/01/hatties-barometer-of-influence-infographic/
    -Erika

  2. Luis,

    Inclusion and support for students is so important, and we unfortunately (and illogically) face many obstacles in ensuring our classrooms are safe environments. For me, the LGTBQ+ instruction bans are also very concerning and personal.

    Having never attended or interacted with single-sex school members, I honestly had not thought about how detrimental this could be to many individuals. Jackson points out that single-sex schools’ success may not even be from the nature of the single-sex groups but rather due to the change of other traditional structures. In fact, Jackson discusses how it is impossible to isolate the “single sex” factor from so many other details when determining school effectiveness.

    In addition, researchers discussed that single-sex schools do not solve anything but rather avoid addressing male misbehavior/disrespect, stereotyping women as “gentle, weak creatures”; I thought this was an interesting point. If parents are sending their daughters to schools for protection from boys, perhaps we need to reflect upon how to make all classrooms (and the world) a safe space for everyone. Jackson also states that it is dangerous for single-sex schools to perpetuate the gender binary and heteronormativity as this erases the experience of so many individuals. We are at a time where we are shedding gender norms and should not be going back in time to enforce them once again. I agree.

    I really appreciate Erika’s insight as well. Research is not as straightforward as I once thought, and I am interested in further exploration.

    I think it is important that we as educators validate our students’ experiences and create safe environments. This is certainly a challenging time for educators. Thank you for posting about such an important topic.

  3. This is such a thought-provoking post, Luis. Thank you!

    For my position paper, I did a deep dive into Florida HB 1557 (aka, the “Don’t Stay Gay Bill” ), and the legislation that just got passed in Florida is sobering. I agree that inclusion is a key part of any curriculum, but unfortunately, legislation like HB 1557 threatens a teacher’s ability to address the lives and experiences of people who are LBGTQIA. The impact ranges from the kinds of books we are able to assign to the kinds of conversations that students and teachers are able to have. Upsetting, to say the least. I do wonder what will happen in Virginia, and I wonder if teachers who are currently in the classroom are feeling pressure when it comes to teaching inclusion.

    As for single-sex education, I completely understand misgivings about education that is “separate but equal.” The argument that single-sex education can reinforce the gender binary and therefore exclude students who are non-binary is a compelling one. That being said, I think there are some educational environments whose missions is to focus on girls’ or women’s experience that work to include students who experience gender across a spectrum rather than a binary. (I’m thinking here of colleges like Sarah Lawrence and Smith.) Also, I am, on the whole, a proponent of peer-reviewed, evidence-based research, but I do see Erika’s point about “experts” who can be drummed up to support any given point-of-view. I think we always have to look closely at findings and do what we teach our students to do — keep asking questions!

  4. Luis,
    Thank you for your post! I think this is a very timely conversation that is tough or touchy for many. Our first priority as teachers is to make our students feel welcome, safe and seen within the confines of a diverse public classroom. Students come with diverse needs that we as teachers must meet in order to ensure an environment where learning and critical thinking occurs. This topic is one I struggle with. As teachers, we have to keep an objective view, withholding our personal opinions, so that students can think critically and formulate their own opinion. Knowing this, I want students to feel welcome, comfortable and free to share their thoughts and even differing views. I want my classroom to be one that is accepting of any viewpoint. Students are raised in a variety of settings and have multiple viewpoints to bring to the table. I think it’s important to not shut down a student’s opinion, knowing that this is a topic that students will have various opinions about. It’s crucial that we teach our students in a way that allows them to evaluate and determine their own stance.
    As far as single-sex schooling, I have never attended this kind of institution or know much about it. I imagine it is harmful to separate students who may not easily be categorized as male or female. In whatever institution we teach, single-sex or multiple, it is our job to establish a welcoming and safe space for our students so we can ensure learning can occur.
    Thank you Luis for your thoughtful post!

  5. Hi Luis,

    I love the topic of choice your picked for your blog. During my time at Bailey Bridge Middle School, I was a part of the all-girls “Panda Team,” which meant that I had all four of my core subject classes with female peers. Consequently, the other sixth grade “teams” were left with majority male students. From my personal experience, I felt that it was equally distracting to focus on schoolwork. In addition, at that time, my parents didn’t have conversations with me nor my older sister about transgender – so, unfortunately, the discrimination in gender was not something I was truly aware of until my later years.

    Of course, my most of electives (during my middle school years) were a mixture of students in classes such as Physical Education and Home Economics. In fact, I loved competing against the boys in my P.E. class. My sister and I grew up playing different types of sports (ballet, tap dance, cheerleading, softball, soccer, volleyball) and our peers and teammates typically viewed us as more of the “aggressive” type, which categorized us as part of the “exception,” to those who reinforce stereotypes and/or believe in binary constructions of gender identities’. I was hesitant on whether I wanted to share this with you all, but since you, Luis, shared something personal about yourself, it reassured me that our class is a safe space to share. So, basically an unwarranted nickname I had in my later middle school and high school years was “manly Morgan.” That bothered me because it made me feel as if I was there was something “wrong” with me, like others couldn’t view me as the cisgender female I do identify as.

    Aside from my personal experience regarding same-sex schooling (just to confirm this concept doesn’t work – at least, not for me), is the genuine importance in the well-being and development of young children, to feel included, to know they are supported, to know they are equally important as any other individual in our society – regardless of their gender identity. Same-sex classes and same-sex schools do discriminate against transgender students. I agree there is strong political influence allowing for these exclusive practices in schools. I understand that religion and beliefs play a huge role in these decisions, and it is heart-breaking knowing that people, especially political leaders, aren’t educating others of the negative impacts these decisions have on individuals within our society.

    I enjoyed having a second semester with you all, hope everyone has a great summer!

  6. Hi Luis,

    First, thank you for sharing your beliefs on such a personal subject; I think the topic of single-sex classrooms is very interesting but controversial. For many reasons, I do not feel that SS classrooms are a good idea, especially regarding oppressing students who feel unattached to the gendered classroom they may be assigned to. While I have never heard of single-sex classrooms in my school district, I was surprised during class last week and when I read everyone’s comments that it is prevalent in Virginia. As Jackson says, it is oversimplifying something that is far more complex. The gender construct is much more vast than just male and female; it is unfair to force students to subscribe to a title they don’t feel comfortable or like themselves in.

    Further, from an academic and social standpoint, students need to comingle. The assumption that girls are distracting in class and boys will be tempted or other beliefs do not have that profound effect in the classroom. In reality, classes of all girls or boys could lead to increased bullying and cliques(especially in middle school); if you identify outside of these groups, it could be even worse. I truly hope this does not become the norm; I think it infringes on the foundation of public school education and seeps into private school beliefs.

    Thanks, Luis, for such a thought-provoking post to end the semester!

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