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Coming to Washington to Talk About Equality

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May 30, 2008

My name is Nikki Anthony and I just finished eighth grade at Breckinridge County Middle School in Kentucky. The ACLU is representing me, my younger sister, and five other students in a case against our school district and the U.S. Department of Education because our rights are being violated by my school segregating students by sex. I was raised in a house where rights are very important, and I was told, “if you don’t stand up for your rights then they will be taken away.” People in the United States don’t tolerate segregation by sex in everyday life, and yet they want us to tolerate it in our school system when we are supposed to be learning what being free really is.

For this reason my family and I are attending the ACLU Membership Conference this June in Washington, D.C., our Nation’s capital. Most people look at the capital as a place that keeps our country held together and that’s the way that it should be. Our capital is the seat of justice and equality in our Nation — EQUALITY being the key word. Separating students into different groups based on sex is wrong, and it doesn’t make things equal for all students. Our society is not based on your gender, and the schools are supposed to prepare us for when we enter the real world. How does separating students by sex prepare us for society when society is not segregated that way?

One day before school started last summer, I went into the school to find out who my teachers were and I was happy with those results. All the trouble started when I found out that I had five all-girls’ classes, and my parents and I had no say in what kind of classes I was put in. The past two years that I was at Breckinridge County Middle School, we were given the choice to be in “gender-specific” or co-educational classes. My family and I had always chosen co-educational classes, but this year my rights and my fellow students’ rights were taken away because we no longer had the right to choose.

The even bigger problem is that the all-girls’ classes and the all-boys’ classes are supposed to be equal, but that’s not the way it worked at my school. The all-girls’ math class that I was in was much more advanced than the all-boys’ math class. The other part of this problem is that the single-sex classes were the only Algebra 1 classes in the eighth grade; there wasn’t a co-educational class to match the single-sex classes like there is supposed to be. We were offered the chance to switch into a new co-educational class but our teacher told us that the class would be made up of a combination of Algebra and Pre-Algebra students and would not move as fast as the all-girls’ math class. Most of the students, including me, were afraid to switch because we would not be moving at a pace that would challenge us and allow us to learn at our capability level.

My family and I are so excited about coming to Washington, D.C., for the ACLU Membership Conference. We can’t wait to meet other people who care about civil rights as much as we do. I am hoping to meet other young people who care about human rights. This trip means a lot to me and my family; we can’t wait to tell our story. I am also very excited to learn about the other types of rights the ACLU fights for!

Listen to a podcast of Nikki, her father Frankie, and sister Stacey, talk about their case.

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