The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Maria Archuleta, ACLU, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666;
Nikki Cox, ACLU of Alabama, (334) 265-2754 ext. 205

ACLU Warns Alabama School District That Its Mandatory Sex Segregation Program Is Illegal And Discriminatory

Boys And Girls At Hankins Middle School Not Allowed To Interact Even In School Hallways


hearing from outraged parents of students who, without notice, were
involuntarily segregated by sex at Hankins Middle School in Mobile,
Alabama, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama
sent a letter to the Mobile County School System today warning that
mandatory sex segregation in public schools is illegal and
discriminatory. The civil liberties organization also asked, under the
Alabama Open Records Act, that the school district make public any and
all documents relating to sex segregation policies in Mobile County
schools from the past two years.

"Mandatory sex segregation in public
schools is not only clearly against the law, it's also an empty promise
for failing schools," said Allison Neal, staff attorney with the ACLU
of Alabama. "Inevitably these experimental programs deny equal
opportunity to girls and boys and distract much needed time and money
from efforts that we know work like smaller classes, highly trained
teachers, sufficient funding and involved parents. Sex segregation
doesn't make public schools more like private schools. If some private
schools provide a better education, it's because of their resources,
not because they are single-sex."

Without notifying parents, Mobile
County School System segregated the entire student body of Hankins
Middle School by sex for the 2008-2009 school year and failed to
provide any coeducational option. In addition to segregating students
for all academic subjects, the sex segregation program goes so far as
to punish boys and girls who are caught speaking in the hallways.

The ACLU charges that mandatory sex
segregation in public schools violates Title IX of the Education
Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the U.S.

Mark Jones, whose son, Jacob, is a
seventh grader at Hankins Middle School, is outraged that his son's
school was segregated by sex.

"Absolutely nothing good can come
from segregating our kids. It's an outdated mode of education that sets
gender equality back to the dark ages," said Jones. "I also worry how
our children are supposed to learn how to behave around the opposite
sex when schools like Hankins Middle School threaten them with
punishment if they so much as talk to each other."

Another parent, Terry Stevens, whose
son attends the eighth grade at Hankins Middle School, said, "I want my
son in a coed school to prepare him for the real non-segregated world.
It's simply not right that the public school system is forcing me to
send him to a sex-segregated institution."

According to Jones, the school
principal told him that the change was necessary because boys' and
girls' brains are so different that they needed different curriculums.

A recent review of existing data by
the U.S. Department of Education showed that there is no consistent
evidence that segregating students by sex improves learning by either
sex. Yet, school districts across the country are experimenting with
sex-segregated programs, which all too often rely on questionable
"brain science" theories based on outdated gender stereotypes that
suggest that teachers should treat boys and girls radically differently.

"There is no evidence that sex
segregation improves learning, but what we've seen is that sex
segregation in public schools denies equality to both boys and girls,"
said Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Program.
"For example, if the best math class in the school happens to be the
girls' class, the boys are completely shut out simply because of their

The Mobile County School System has 30 days to respond to the ACLU's Open Records Request.

In addition to the ACLU,
organizations that have previously opposed the type of segregation at
Hankins Middle School include the national NAACP, the National
Education Association and the American Association of University Women.

Attorneys who worked on the open
records request include Neal from the ACLU of Alabama and Martin and
Lenora Lapidus from the ACLU Women's Rights Program.

The ACLU's open records request is available online at:

More information on the ACLU Women's Rights Project work on sex segregation is available at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666