Alabama School District Agrees To End Illegal Sex Segregation

July 6, 2009

Policy Change Comes After Notice From ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

MOULTON, AL – The Lawrence County School District in Alabama has agreed to end single-sex classes in public schools after being notified by the American Civil Liberties Union that sex segregated programs are illegal and discriminatory.

"We're very pleased that the Lawrence County School District has agreed to abandon sex segregation programs," said Allison Neal, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama. "We hope that now the county will focus on efforts that we know can improve all students' education, like smaller classes and more teacher training and parental involvement."

Under the settlement agreement, the school district agreed to end the single-sex education program at East Lawrence Middle School. Beginning in the fall of 2009, all courses will be integrated in every school in the county, and no school will institute any sex segregated programs for the next three years. From fall 2012 through spring 2015, Lawrence County will not institute any sex segregated program without first notifying the ACLU.

In an Open Records Act (ORA) request sent to the school board in December 2008, the ACLU and the ACLU of Alabama asked the school district for information about its sex segregated programs because of concerns that the programs might be discriminatory. The ACLU informed the school district in a letter that mandatory sex segregation in public schools violates Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Through the ORA inquiry, the ACLU learned that students in East Lawrence Middle School were being assigned to single-sex courses. The school district's ORA response stated that teachers were encouraged to teach boys and girls differently. For example, 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."

"The very different gender-specific lessons encouraged at East Lawrence Middle School were not equal; they were creating and enforcing gender stereotypes," said Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "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."

In November 2008, the ACLU sent ORA requests to 10 school districts in Alabama based on information that each was operating sex segregated classes in public schools. Of those 10 school districts, nine have either since abandoned sex segregation programs or had previously ceased segregating students by sex.

Attorneys who worked on the settlement agreement and Open Records Act request include Neal from the ACLU of Alabama and Martin and Lenora Lapidus from the ACLU Women's Rights Project.

The settlement agreement is available online at: www.aclu.org/womensrights/edu/40126lgl20090706.html

The ACLU's Open Records request is available online at: www.aclu.org/womensrights/edu/38096res20081215.html

More information on the ACLU Women's Rights Project work on sex segregation is available at: www.aclu.org/sexsegregation

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