Sixth-grade students at Jackson Middle School voted to retain same-sex lunch periods and recess following the policy's trial period.
At the beginning of the school year, the middle school instituted the separation for the first quarter to see whether it would reduce distractions and allow students to focus more on their education. Principal Rodney Pensel said while he doesn't have specific numbers, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of discipline infractions and trips to the school counselor.
Pensel said students were asked whether they would like to change the lunch and recess policy, keep it the same or if they had no preference. Students choosing to change or keep the policy had to provide a reason. He said many students said they did not care if the policy changed or not, but of the students with a preference, the majority voted to keep it the same.
"It wasn't an overwhelming majority, but a good majority. I think they realized their friends they had been eating lunch with and playing with could move to the other shift. They didn't want to be separated from their new friends," he said.
He said students voting to return to co-ed lunch and recess often cited not being able to spend time with family members and friends of the opposite sex.
While school distractions seemed to decrease, Pensel said, staff members also noticed other changes.
"The girls played so much more. They were playing basketball, doing flips and cheerleading. They were a lot more active during recess," he said.
In the past, he said, the girls would often sit back and let the boys play, with only a few girls stepping forward to join the games. He didn't think this was a result of any bullying on the boys' part, but the girls just had more self-awareness when the boys were around.
Pensel also said the boys were much noisier at lunch than the girls.
"They're not unruly, just noisier. The girls are more quiet," he said.
Pensel said only three parents complained to the school when the separation was implemented in August, despite the number of critical comments left on semissourian.com and in public forums.
1651 W. Independence St., Jackson, MO