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ACLU Protests Mentoring Program for Boys in Kansas District

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas wants the Lawrence, Kan., school system to suspend a pilot program for boys over concerns that it violates Title IX, the federal law designed to ban sex discrimination in education.

Operated out of Lawrence's Free State High School, the program pairs 15 boys with male mentors, including school district and university leaders and nonprofit directors. The initiative aims to address the problem of male students graduating at lower rates than female students.

The Lawrence Journal-World obtained a letter written by ACLU of Kansas legal director Doug Bonney to school Superintendent Rick Doll, arguing that the program, which includes no girls, violates the federal law. School officials said they hoped the pilot program would spread to students in other district schools.

This is the second time in a month the ACLU of Kansas has contacted the Lawrence schools to raise concerns about potential Title IX violations. In January, the organization wrote to Superintendent Doll about male-only and female-only high school English classes, which have since been canceled.

The school district will not make a decision on the future of the mentoring program until meeting with Bonney later this month, district spokesman Julie Boyle told Education Week on Tuesday.

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights issued guidance for schools offering single-sex classes, requiring that schools have a good educational reason for doing so, and they need to give parents a chance to "opt-in" to the single-sex model and offer a similar co-ed option on the same subject. Schools must also conduct regular reviews of the classes to ensure compliance with Title IX regulations and have to make a compelling case that offering the single-sex classes will directly boost student achievement.

The guidance would seem to address concerns raised by the ACLU, which has questioned the reasoning behind single-sex classes in states including Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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