Single Sex Classrooms
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by Christine Urio

While bullying is presented as the norm of adolescent socialization in popular culture, questions have been raised as to how single-sex classrooms influence harassment.

During a recent lecture at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC), Vivian Milczarski, assistant librarian, and Frances Spielhagen, associate professor of education, addressed how single-sex classes foster bullying and if there is anything teachers can do to eliminate this behavior.

Findings have shown there is no correlation between single-sex classrooms and bullying; however, it may be possible that teachers teach differently in this atmosphere, playing to stereotypes.

The American Civil Liberties Union declared that separate is never equal—boys used to be required to take shop courses, while girls took home economics.

Girls’ single-sex education is supported, however, because “boy” subjects, such as math, taught in this secluded environment are designed especially for girls to get involved.

“Choice of setting is critical when considering the affective outcomes of school, despite if it is a single sex or coed setting,” said Spielhagen.

Instructors can use teachable moments, as well as books, to deter bullying.

“This initiates discussion and helps kids develop self confidence,” said Milczarski.

Stress is relieved from all bullying parties, the bully, the victim, and the bystander, helping to “explore feelings and gain insights.”

Milczarski suggested teachers select literature to use in the classroom that is relevant, current, has authentic characters, an accurate portrayal of bullying, and good coping strategies.

“You can do the most in middle school,” she said. “It is a crucial time of development and children are sensitive to social cliques—it is most prevalent at this age.”

She also suggested picking books with common themes, such as hope, empathy of the victim, different perspectives of bullying, respect and tolerance, and celebration of differences.

The most successful anti-bullying programs have been Steps to Respect, Pilot Programs, and ReadWriteThink.

While single-sex education has been the norm in private schools, they are growing across the nation as the public has become increasingly aware of the persistent presence of bullying in schools.