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  Case: Cannot Cooperate
Aisha is known as a responsible and smart student. I have known her for the last two years, but this year is the first time she is taking one of my classes. She is in my 10th grade US History class. Recently, I started using small group projects in my class. I simply want my students to learn to cooperate, exchange ideas, and produce the project together. Although Aisha is willing to take part in these small group projects, she does not want to be in groups with male students because of her religious beliefs. When she told me about this, I told her that she was in the United States and that she had to work with whoever she is in a group with. In the first group project, Aisha was in a group with three males and one female students. She simply did not participate in any of the group activities. I wonder if should reconsider my original position on this issue and accommodate Aisha by having her work only with girls. Would I be doing her a disservice? What should I do?
Solution: (Rates are posted for this solution!)
I agree with some of the other comments that your decision should begin with a conference with Aisha’s parents and your administration. My experience is with elementary and middle grades, but whenever I have been in a situation involving conflicts due to religious beliefs, the information has come in writing from a parent. Fortunately, unlike in some elementary school situations, you are probably not Aisha’s only teacher, so you probably have a team of colleagues to help you.

Discussing the situation with Aisha’s parents may help to clarify the issue. Perhaps Aisha did not feel comfortable in a group that was primarily male, but she might be willing or able to work in a group that is more equally divided or primarily female. Based on the fact that she is a 10th grader in good standing at a co-ed high school, it appears that Aisha has worked cooperatively with male students to some degree in the past. In order for a reasonable conclusion to be reached, some clarification needs to be made as to what extent of contact with males is contrary to Aisha’s religion.