ACLU Challenges Louisiana School Sex-Segregation Program Before Federal Appeals Court

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Challenges Louisiana School Sex-Segregation Program Before Federal Appeals Court

Group Claims Students In Vermilion Parish Denied Equal Education

NEW ORLEANS - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana appeared
before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today challenging
sex-segregation in core curricular classes at a public middle school in
Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. The ACLU filed the appeal on behalf of two
students at Rene A. Rost Middle School and their mother on the grounds
that the program illegally discriminates against both boys and girls in
violation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and
sex stereotypes, and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee to equal
protection. 

"This program was implemented based
on outmoded stereotypes and discredited theories about differences in
the way boys and girls learn," said Lenora M. Lapidus, Director of the
ACLU Women's Rights Project. "Perpetuating gender stereotypes in
sex-segregated classes limits opportunities for boys and girls alike.
There is no evidence that separating boys and girls results in improved
academic performance. The only evidence in this case – the students'
actual report card grades – shows that academic performance declined
during sex-segregation."

The original lawsuit was filed on
behalf of two girls, Jill and Joan Doe, who were placed in single-sex
classrooms at the school, despite their parents' wishes that they be
placed in coeducational classes. When the ACLU objected to the mandatory
sex-segregation policy, the school district amended the plan to
establish a nominally coeducational option. However, the only
"coeducational" option was a class with a disproportionate number of
students with special educational requirements. By contrast, the "gifted
and talented" students were disproportionately placed into the
single-sex classrooms.

"The law requires that all children
should have equal access to educational programs, regardless of their
sex," said Katie Schwartzmann, Legal Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
"Children should receive an appropriate education based on their
individual needs, and not simply on whether they're boys or girls."

In April, a district court denied the
ACLU's request for an order blocking the program, ignoring claims of
violations under Title IX. The court found that despite the fact that
the program had been wrongfully implemented and was based on "extremely
flawed" data, the school board did not violate the Equal Protection
Clause simply because it did not intend to harm the students. The judge
ordered that the program be modified.

The ACLU appealed the decision in
June, arguing that the court's findings were wrong and that the proposed
modifications would not address the fundamental inequality of the
program.

"The district court's ruling failed
to apply the correct legal standard under the Constitution and ignored
the plaintiffs' claims under Title IX altogether," said Mark W.
Friedman, cooperating attorney from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. "Title
IX prohibits sex-segregation in coed schools receiving federal funds
and the Constitution requires the existence of an extremely persuasive
justification for separating boys and girls in public schools that
simply does not exist at Rost. The district court's modifications to
this program will not change the fact that it is unlawful and rooted in
faulty data and discredited theories."

A copy of the appeal brief can be found at: www.aclu.org/womens-rights/jane-doe-et-al-v-vermilion-parish-school-board-et-al-appeal-brief

More information on this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/womens-rights/doe-v-vermilion-parish-school-board

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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.

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