ACLU Appeals Decision In Louisiana Public School Sex Segregation Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
May 28, 2010 12:00 am

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Claims Students In Vermilion Parish Denied Equal Education

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LAFAYETTE, LA – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana today filed an appeal brief in a case challenging the segregation of classes by sex in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. The ACLU maintains that the Vermilion Parish School Board illegally discriminated against both boys and girls at Rene A. Rost Middle School and that the Louisiana district court erred in allowing a modified version of the program to continue in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.

“Segregating students by sex is illegal, and should not be allowed to continue in Vermilion Parish’s public schools,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “This program is based on nothing more than gender stereotypes. It conveys to students the false and detrimental message that boys and girls are so intellectually different that they shouldn’t even be educated in the same classroom.”

In April, a district court denied the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction against the program, ignoring the plaintiffs’ claims of violations under Title IX. The court also wrongfully found that the school board did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because it did not intend to harm the students. However, the court noted that the segregation of students by sex was based on “extremely flawed” data and that the program itself had been wrongfully implemented, and ordered that the program be modified.

“Despite modifications to the sex-segregated program in Vermilion Parish, we maintain that the policy results in unequal access to education,” said Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Boys and girls will be less prepared to succeed in the world if they do not socialize, compete and collaborate with members of the opposite sex in school. Real life is not separated by sex any more than it is separated by race or religion.”

The original lawsuit was filed on behalf of two girls who were placed in single-sex classrooms at Rene A. Rost, despite their parents’ wishes that they opt-out of the sex-segregated program. When the ACLU objected to the mandatory sex segregation policy and informed the school district that it was illegal, the school district amended the plan to establish a nominally coeducational option. However, when the school year commenced, a mandatory sex segregation policy remained in place and parents soon learned that the only “coeducational” option was a class for students with special educational requirements.

Despite the court’s mandated changes to the program, it remains rooted in flawed research and unsubstantiated ideas about the average abilities and learning styles of boys and girls.

“The district court’s ruling ignores previous statutes, regulations and Supreme Court decisions that establish high and even insurmountable hurdles to single-sex education in otherwise coed public schools,” said Mark W. Friedman, cooperating attorney from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. “Ignoring those important laws is all the more regrettable given that the evidence plainly established that sex segregation at Rene A. Rost was ill-conceived, poorly executed and denied parents educational choice.”

A copy of the appeal brief can be found at:

More on this case can be found at:

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