By Genesee Keevil
Although she drops her son off every morning, Aubree Peters had to learn from local media that Takhini Elementary was thinking of gender-segregating its classes.
“I have a good relationship with the principal and the teachers,” said the concerned mom.
“And I didn’t know until I read it in the paper — that’s how everyone found out.”
The superintendent told Peters the story was leaked and they didn’t have time to release anything to parents.
“They should have let the parents know before someone leaked the story,” she said.
“When I heard the idea, I was a little choked.”
The idea of splitting up classes based on gender will be broached at a school parents meeting on Tuesday, said Takhini vice-principal Glenna Howard.
“We will explain the reasons behind the idea and look for input from the community,” she said.
The idea has already been discussed with the student council, said Howard.
It supports the plan.
Parents’ input will be discussed with the council, the superintendent and the staff, she said.
“But I can’t say who will make the final decision.”
Brain research is revealing there are 10 specific differences between boys and girls, she added, citing a book by Dr. Leonard Sax called Why Gender Matters.
According to Sax’s book, things like hearing, reaction time and even sight differs between the sexes, said Howard.
“For instance, girls respond differently to colours and boys respond more quickly to motion.”
They are citing research that boys and girls learn differently, said Peters.
“But they also said girls are distracting — without the girls the boys will be focused.
“And they said they’d gear the classes toward things that boys want to do and things that girls want to do.
“So would that mean majority rules? If the majority of the boys want to do this, this and this, that is the way the class might head.”
But what about children that don’t jive with the majority, said Peters.
“I might have a non-majority child; I might have an artist — would they do less crafts because boys don’t want to do art as much?
“That really upset me, and I started to get more and more offended as a single mom.
“I just don’t like it. It doesn’t sit right with me.”
Even in mixed-gender classes there are children who learn differently from everybody else, said Howard.
“We already make those accommodations, so there wouldn’t be any difference in a single-gender class,” she said.
Most of the research being cited has been done on older classes, Grades 5 through 7, said Peters.
And girls might be distracting for adolescent boys, she said.
“But not for my six-year-old son.”
Peters is a single mom with three sisters, three nieces and three nephews.
“And I feel a little upset — my son is in a very female environment, and now they think that is not a good environment for him and they think for six hours a day he should be in an all-male environment.”
The funny thing is, Takhini Elementary doesn’t have one male teacher, said Peters.
Only the principal is male.
“So for six hours a day for the next seven years of my son’s life, the only person in the room without a penis will be the teacher,” she said.
“I don’t like it.”
The superintendent said the females at the school were all “tickled pink” to teach the all-boy and all-girl classes next year, she added.
“Mrs. Dewitt, the Grade 5 teacher said she’s going to self-teach herself over the summer to be a boys’ Grade 5 teacher,” said Peters. “She’s going to read up on it and then be ready to go in September.”
However, the superintendent promised to send the teachers away for summer training, said Peters.
“So they have two months to train to become specialists on this position.”
In May, two teachers from Takhini are heading to Trail, BC, to study a school that’s running gender-segregated classes there, said Howard.
“Every school looks at ways and strategies to improve student achievement,” said Education’s assistant deputy minister Christie Whitley.
There’s a growing body of evidence that supports gender-specific classrooms, she said.
And Takhini’s been considering it for a couple of months.
Jack Hulland Elementary looked at it last year.
“But the community was not ready so they decided to leave it,” said Whitley.
The public consultation process for Takhini starts next week, she said.
“It’s important when things like this are going on to listen to parents.”
Takhini is not planning on segregating kindergarten, said Peters.
“So you start with boys and girls, then in Grades 1 through 7 my son will be with just boys.
“Then in high school he’ll be back with girls and boys again.
“That’s bizarre — it’s not how you live life, you always have women and men together.”
If Takhini segregates it’s classes Peters is switching schools, she said.