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Back of the bus: Does separating boys and girls on school bus enhance safety?

I've been following an interesting Facebook discussion about a new policy at an APS high school requiring boys sit in the front of the school bus and girls in the back.

I asked Atlanta Public Schools about gender seating on its buses and received this reply today:

“Separating students by gender is not a policy or regulation, however bus drivers have the autonomy to determine how to best position students in their buses in the same way that teachers have that autonomy in their classrooms. Separating students by gender is a commonly used behavior management strategy, especially in middle and high schools. Atlanta Public Schools’ overall priority is to ensure the safety and security of our student bus riders.”

Strategic seating in classrooms has always been part of the teacher tool box. (The nuns were always shuffling seats in my Catholic school. With 40 of us in the class, there were plenty of options.) It's not surprising it occurs on school buses as well.

However, I've seen teachers use the opposite tack on field trips. They purposely sit boys with girls, finding boys tone down their exuberance as a result.

Most parents would endorse gender separation on school buses if drivers believe it enhances safety. However, a friend has 12-year-old boy-girl twins, and they like to sit together. She thinks gender separation -- in this case by a private school in New York -- is unfair and has argued against it. She says there's no real evidence separating boys and girls makes for calmer bus travel.

The parents commenting on Facebook were concerned schools did not explain why bus riders were segregated or provide any notification.

But one parent wrote:  "At the risk of sounding uncaring: so?"

Any different thoughts out there? Is there value in segregating by gender on school buses?

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.