Louisiana School Board to Halt Single-Sex Classes After ACLU Intervention

October 13, 2011 3:13 pm

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Vermilion Parish Schools Agree to Cease All Sex-Segregated Programs Through 2016-2017 School Year

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NEW ORLEANS – A school board in Vermilion Parish has agreed to halt a middle school program that segregated core curricular classes by sex through at least the end of the 2016-2017 school year. The agreement is part of a settlement between the Vermilion Parish School Board and clients represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Louisiana and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The original lawsuit charged that the program at Rene A. Rost Middle School (RRMS) in Kaplan, Louisiana, violated federal laws, including Title IX and the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, and alleged that the RRMS program was based on flawed data, relied heavily on gender stereotypes and had no positive effect on academic performance.

“The students at RRMS should never have been exposed to this misguided experiment in the first place, and we are glad that it has been halted for the long term,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “While much more can and must be done to improve kids’ educational opportunities, Louisiana’s schoolchildren deserve better than quick-fix gimmicks that do nothing to improve our schools.”

The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of families and students who have attended RRMS. In addition to the abandonment of the program, the school board has agreed not to institute sex-segregated programs at any of the 19 schools in Vermilion Parish through the 2016-2017 school year and must notify the ACLU if it intends to revive sex-segregated activities at any school during the 2017-2018 or 2018-2019 school years. The ACLU is fighting other sex-segregated programs based on unfounded stereotypes across the country.

“The Vermilion program was one of many across the country that relied on the outdated and discredited notion that boys and girls are so different that they need to be taught differently,” said Galen Sherwin, staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “This should send a message to other schools that this type of experiment is not worth the risk. If we really want to help our kids, we should invest in policies that are known to work, like smaller classes, greater parental involvement and more attention to curriculum content. Co-education is not the problem, and sex segregation is not the solution.”

“This settlement ending unlawful sex segregation in Vermilion Parish vindicates the vital constitutional and statutory rights necessary to ensure sex equality in our nation’s schools,” said Mark Friedman of Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP. “This outstanding result is a powerful testament to the extraordinary courage and conviction of our clients and the other parents and students in the parish who supported and participated in the case.”

Sex-segregated classes have been implemented around the country based on the discredited theories of Dr. Leonard Sax and Michael Gurian that boys and girls learn so differently that they need to be educated separately. These theories include the ideas that girls perform poorly under stress, and so should not be timed during exams; boys should be given Nerf baseball bats to hit things to relieve tension; and that boys who like to read, avoid sports and have close female friends should be forced to spend time with “normal” boys.

These theories were refuted in a recent article in the journal Science that showed sex segregation did not contribute to increased academic performance and, in fact, harmed students by making these stereotypes more acceptable.

For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/womens-rights/doe-v-vermilion-parish-school-board

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