Single-sex lunches benefit school children

Kansas City, Missouri Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:15pm EST

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Kansas City, Missouri (Reuters) - Single-sex lunches introduced in three schools in America's heartland have helped reduce misbehavior among students and improve eating habits, authorities said.

The Wichita, Kansas middle schools, for students aged 11 to 14, started the separate lunches for boys and girls to reduce teasing, rough-housing and flirting.

"The girls really seem to like it because they get their girl time without having to worry about boys," said Michael Archibeque, principal at Pleasant Valley Middle School. "And the boys don't show off for the girls. I think it's the perfect age for this."

But what Archibeque likes most is that more students are finishing their food, which means less waste and fewer students having to study while hungry in the afternoon.

"I could not believe how many kids are actually eating," Archibeque said.

At Truesdell Middle School in Wichita, which has had single-sex lunches for two years, the positive impact lasts even after lunch is over, according to Principal Jennifer Sinclair.

The students seem to have adapted to the single-sex lunches, Sinclair said. When a mixed-gender lunch was offered recently as incentive to encourage school fundraising, the kids were not interested.

"They said, 'Yuck, why would we want that?'" Sinclair said.

It is not clear how many schools in the United State have single-sex lunches. A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Education said Wichita is the only school district she has heard of in the state with that policy.

Single-sex education is growing rapidly in the United States following evidence that boys and girls may do better academically and socially by being in separate classrooms.

In January, at least 524 public schools had classrooms that were single sex, up from about a dozen in 2002, according to the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education.

The association did not have figures on how many schools with co-educational classrooms have single-sex lunchrooms. School principals generally do not require approval of the school board or state departments of education to have single-sex lunches.

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