The ACLU is working to guarantee all students equal access to educational opportunities and resources in an educational environment free from gender-based stereotypes, violence, and harassment.
Education is the foundation for civic participation, and schools are formative in shaping how children and young people view themselves and others. Accordingly, it is essential that school environments foster gender equality and provide safe spaces in which all students can learn. However, the gains in girls’ and women’s access to education that have been made since the enactment of Title IX are being undermined with the increasing adoption of sex-segregated programs based on gender stereotypes in public schools. These programs are often justified and implemented in reliance on pseudo-scientific research about how boys’ and girls’ brains function and how they learn. The propagation of such stereotypes by the government through hundreds of schools is a serious threat to gender equality.
Additionally, pregnant and parenting teens face severe obstacles to educational equality, leading to high drop out rates. Schools often treat teenage mothers as behavior problems and deny them full access to an education, fail to provide necessary services to support them in their parenting responsibilities, and engage in push-out policies that lead young women to drop out of school. In doing so, schools both deny these teens equal access to the tools they need to overcome the challenges they face as young parents, and perpetuate sexist, and often racist, conceptions about young women who engage in sexual behavior. Finally, students often face gender-based violence, which schools trivialize and fail to take adequate steps to prevent or remedy.
Women Wrestlers Go to the Mat for Equal Rights (2011 blog): According to its website, “UC Davis and its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics are committed to gender equity and adherence to federal Title IX requirements.” But it didn’t seem that way to Arezou Mansourian and many of her female teammates on the school’s wrestling team. Last week, a federal court agreed with the women that the university failed to follow the requirements of Title IX, the federal law passed in 1972 to eliminate sex discrimination at institutions that receive federal funding.
Louisiana School Board Suspends Sex-Segregation Program (2011 blog): A local school board in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, voted in June 2011 to suspend a program at a public middle school that has for two years separated girls from boys in core curriculum classes. The decision was announced as the ACLU was poised to file papers in the District Court seeking to stop Rene Rost Middle School (RRMS) from providing sex-segregated classes during the 2011–12 school year, following a favorable ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in April.
Gender-Based Violence & Harassment: Your School, Your Rights (2011 resource): Gender-based violence and harassment are behaviors that are committed because of a person's gender or sex. They can be carried out by a boyfriend or girlfriend, a date, other kids, or adults. If someone does any of the following to you because of gender or sex, it may constitute gender-based violence or harassment.