For Immediate Release
Hearing Begins Today On Sex Segregated Public School In Louisiana
ACLU Representing Family Fighting Sex Segregation Policy At Middle School In Vermilion Parish
LAFAYETTE, LA - In
the first court hearing ever about sex segregation in coed public
schools, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana
argued today that the school board in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
illegally discriminated against both boys and girls at Rene A. Rost
Middle School by segregating all grades in all core curriculum classes
by sex. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two girls who were placed in
single-sex classrooms at Rene A. Rost, the only middle school in the
city of Kaplan, Louisiana. The hearing is expected to last through
"The segregation policy at Rene A.
Rost is based on sex stereotypes about the ways children learn and
behave," said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights
Project. "These stereotypes are not supported by scientifically valid
evidence and are ultimately harmful to both girls and boys who are
effectively being told by the Vermilion Parish School Board that the
single most important thing about them is their sex."
Two weeks before school opened in
the fall of 2009, parents of students at Rene A. Rost Middle School
were informed that all core curriculum classes in all four grades would
be segregated by sex. 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
However, when the school year
commenced, a mandatory sex segregation policy remained in place.
Although parents were told they could select coed or segregated classes
for their children, they soon learned that the only "coed" option was a
class for students with special educational requirements.
"Unfortunately, what we've seen time
and time again is that sex segregation programs deny equal opportunity
to both girls and boys," said Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director of the
ACLU of Louisiana. "They also divert much needed time and money from
efforts that we know work such as smaller classes, highly trained
teachers, sufficient funding and involved parents."
The ACLU charges that sex
segregation in public schools violates Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, the Title IX regulations of numerous federal
agencies and the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court struck down
single-sex admissions policies for the nursing program at Mississippi
University for Women and at the Virginia Military Institute but has not
addressed sex segregation in elementary and secondary education.
"The evidence in this case indicates
that the sex segregation policy at Rene A. Rost cannot overcome the
high and even insurmountable legal hurdles to sex-based classifications
in public schools," said Mark Friedman, cooperating attorney from
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. "The school's segregation policy is not
only clearly against the law, it also fails to provide parents and
students any with any real educational choice."
Studies that purport to show
improved performance in single-sex classrooms have not stood up to
scrutiny because they have not considered additional factors such as
class size, school resources and socio-economic status. Where those
variables are considered, students in single-sex classrooms fare no
differently than their peers in coed classes.
Attorneys on the case, Doe v. Vermilion Parish School Board,
include Lapidus, Amy L. Katz and Naveen Kabir from the ACLU Women's
Rights Project, Schwartzmann from the ACLU of Louisiana and Friedman of
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
The ACLU's complaint is available online at: www.aclu.org/womensrights/edu/
More information on the ACLU Women's Rights Project work on sex segregation is available at: www.aclu.org/womensrights/edu/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.