Selden v. Livingston Parish School Board - Statement of Darren Selden, father of Michelle, plaintiff

Document Date: August 2, 2006

My name is Darren Selden and my daughter Michelle Selden is a student at Southside Junior High School. I work as an offshore paramedic and a volunteer firefighter in Denham Springs, Louisiana. I previously served in the U.S. Army.”

My wife Rhonda and I moved to Livingston Parish, Louisiana, in 2000. We chose Livingston Parish because of the quality of its public schools, which are some of the best in the state. Michelle, our only child, has attended public school in Livingston Parish School District since 2000.

Southside Junior High School, which my daughter has attended for two years and is returning to this fall, is a public school that includes grades six through eight. I don’t have the option and would not want to send my daughter to another public junior high school in Livingston Parish. And time is getting tight as the first day of school is next week, August 9.”

As far as I know, up until now Southside Junior High School has always been completely coeducational, with boys and girls sharing the same classes. It has certainly been completely coeducational in the two years that my daughter has attended. Southside Junior High School has been very successful as a coeducational school. For instance, students’ test scores at the school are very good—better than state or national averages. “

In May 2006, my wife went to a meeting at Southside Junior High for parents of current and incoming students. At that meeting, Southside Junior High’s principal, Alan Joe Murphy, announced that beginning in the fall, Southside would segregate its students by sex in all classes. Mr. Murphy said that the decision to provide only single-sex classes had already been made and that the school board backed this decision.”

Mr. Murphy made a presentation on the differences between boys and girls and the rationale for adopting sex-segregated education at Southside Junior High School. This presentation included a “PowerPoint” slide show on the different ways that boys and girls learn and the differences in their brains. The same slide show can be seen today at Southside Junior High School’s website. Mr. Murphy said that the classes for the girls and the classes for the boys would be run differently because of the differences in girls’ and boys’ brains. He said that segregating students by sex would be good for them academically because it would reduce distractions. He also told us that some of Southside Junior High School’s staff would attend a training program in July in Colorado about gender differences in how boys and girls learn. These staff would in turn instruct Southside Junior High School teachers on the different teaching methods necessary for boys and girls.

Before the meeting in May, no one from Southside Junior High School or Livingston Parish School Board had informed me or my wife about this plan to segregate Southside Junior High School by sex. Apparently, administrators decided to segregate Southside by sex without consulting parents about this approach.

I don’t think that this sex segregation plan is fair or right. It seems discriminatory to me and based on stereotypes that I don’t believe in. If I had wanted my daughter to go to a single-sex school, I would have sent her to a private school. I believe that if my daughter is forced to attend sex-segregated classes that are taught based on stereotypes about how girls learn, that she may very well be harmed by this discriminatory environment.

This is the only chance my daughter will have to go to eighth grade. I think she should be able to do so without being forced to attend single-sex classes based on gender stereotypes.”