The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

Alabama School District Agrees to End Illegal Sex Segregation

Policy Change Comes After Notice From ACLU


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:

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