Can Boys Really Not Sit Still in School?

Doug Anglin complains that his high school makes it easier for girls than for boys to succeed academically, and the Massachusetts teenager is now trying to prove it to the federal government.

It may sound like sour grapes, but some experts believe Anglin has a point.

In the complaint that he lodged with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, Anglin, 17, claimed that girls faced fewer restrictions from teachers at Milton High School in Milton, Mass., and that boys were more likely to be punished.

"The system is designed to the disadvantage of males," Anglin told The Boston Globe. "From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders and listen to what they say, you'll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this."

The complaint comes at a time when boys' struggles in school are getting close examination. According to a 2005 report by the Educational Equity Center of the Academy for Educational Development in Washington D.C., boys around the country are increasingly falling behind girls academically, and are more likely to get suspended. And experts told ABC News that Anglin's assessment has merit and describes what prevails in most American classrooms.

"I think he's got it basically right, although I don't believe the system was set up purposely to hurt boys," said William Pollack, director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Pollack and others noted that in general young boys in kindergarten and first grade are not able to behave as well as girls due to biological and social differences. He said that up until fifth grade, boys require five to seven recesses a day, though most get just one. "With a boy who squirms, you take away his recess," he said, "so then he either acts out and we say he's a discipline problem, or he's very active and we say he has hyperactivity."

Kathy Stevens, co-author of "The Minds of Boys" and director of training at the Michael Gurian Educational Institute, said boys' physical composition makes them learn differently than girls.

"That's a biological predisposition," Stevens said. "Take a little boy who's a year to a year-and-a-half behind developmentally. Sitting down, listening, learning to write the alphabet are going to be more difficult for them in a traditional setting."

Pollack and Stevens acknowledge that many boys excel in school and thrive in the classroom. But they say they may have to overcome their natural urges to do so.

Can Boys Really Not Sit Still?

Boys have a "biological imperative" to move more, Stevens said, because they have 15 percent more spinal fluid. "Their body is really an extension of their brain," she said.

Because they are unable to follow directions as well as girls do, she said, "Boys get identified from the get-go as behavior problems, ADD. Maybe he's just a boy and he can't just sit still."

Anglin's complaint focuses on his high school, where girls outnumber boys almost two to one on the honor roll, and almost 60 percent of the students in advanced placement classes are female, according to information provided by school officials.

A soccer and baseball player who plans to attend college, Anglin hopes the Education Department will react to his complaint by coming up with national guidelines on how to boost the academic achievement of boys.

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