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Alabama Schools End Sex-Segregated Classes

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July 7, 2009

Last year we heard reports of sex-segregated programs in public schools across Alabama. We wanted to make sure students were not illegally being shut out of the best educational opportunities available simply because of their sex, so the ACLU of Alabama and the national ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project sent an Open Records Act (ORA) request to 10 school districts late last year, asking them for information about their sex-segregated programs.

We informed the school districts that sex-segregated classes in public schools may be in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Yesterday, we were happy to announce that the Lawrence County School District agreed to end its single-sex classes. In May, the St. Clair County School District also agreed to discontinue single-sex classes, as did the Mobile County School District in April. Indeed, of the 10 school districts the ACLU approached, nine either had already discontinued sex-segregated classes or have since agreed to do so beginning in the fall of 2009.

Through the ORA inquiry, we found out that teachers at East Lawrence Middle School in Lawrence County were encouraged to teach boys and girls differently. So, according to the school district’s response, “a writing prompt for a boy may be what place in the world he would most like to go hunting or drive on a race track where the girls may write about their dream wedding dress or their ideal birthday party.”

In a statement yesterday, Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said:

The very different gender-specific lessons encouraged at East Lawrence Middle School were not equal; they were creating and enforcing gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that sex segregated classes are inherently unequal and diminish the diversity in public schools that best prepares students for life outside the classroom.

You can read the settlement with the Lawrence County School District, and check out our original open records act request.

The WRP still has an outstanding lawsuit against a school district in Kentucky for its ongoing sex-segregated classes. You can learn more about this case and our work on sex segregation at www.aclu.org/sexsegregation.

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