Continuing its attack on illegal sex segregation in public schools, the ACLU filed suit in federal district court in Louisiana, challenging the Vermillion Parish School District, alleging that recent policies violate Title IX of Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a parent whose two children were placed in sex segregated classrooms without being offered equivalent coeducational options as required by law.
According to the suit, approximately two weeks before the school year started the parents were informed that their middle school would be segregated according to sex. The parents objected to the school district’s plan, alleging that it amounted to illegal sex segregation. The school district agreed to amend the plan so that it included coeducational classes. According to the school district, they would provide these coeducational classes and that any single-sex program would be voluntary.
However, on the first day of school the parent discovered that both of her children had been placed in single-sex classes. When the parent requested that her daughters be placed in coed classes, she was told that those classes were already full and that the only option for her daughters would be a special needs class. In connection with the announced lawsuit, Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said “[W]e have seen time and time again that sex segregated programs are inherently unequal for both girls and boys and in some instance, can shut students out of the best classes in the school simply because of their sex. One of the strengths of public schools is the opportunity they provide for students to learn from those different from themselves. Sex segregation leaves students less prepared for success in a coeducational world.”
In fact, a recent review of existing data by the U.S. Department of Education showed no consistent evidence that segregating students by sex improves learning by either boys or girls. Despite these conclusions, school districts still try and employ sex segregation as a way to deal with overcrowded classrooms and failing test scores. Districts often point to outdated and questionable “brain science” studies that purport to chronicle learning differences according to gender. Those studies often suggest that teachers teach girls radically different than boys in the classroom, including encouraging girls to envision themselves as caregivers and suggesting boys are inherently more skilled in math and sciences.
Previous attempts by public school districts to create and enforce single-sex education in places like Georgia and Florida, once challenged, have failed. Certainly public school districts across the country, and particularly in the south, face significant challenges, but the solution is not to deny students the opportunity to learn together. Here’s hoping the ACLU has as much success with this recent effort as with prior challenges.
photo courtsey of Dan via Flickr