The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666;

ACLU Appeals Decision in Louisiana Public School Sex Segregation Case

Claims Students in Vermilion Parish Denied Equal Education


The American Civil Liberties Union and the
ACLU of Louisiana today filed an appeal brief in a case challenging the
segregation of classes by sex in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. The ACLU
maintains that the Vermilion Parish School Board illegally discriminated
against both boys and girls at Rene A. Rost Middle School and that the
Louisiana district court erred in allowing a modified version of the
program to continue in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection

"Segregating students by sex is
illegal, and should not be allowed to continue in Vermilion Parish's
public schools," said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's
Rights Project. "This program is based on nothing more than gender
stereotypes. It conveys to students the false and detrimental message
that boys and girls are so intellectually different that they shouldn't
even be educated in the same classroom."

In April, a district court denied the
ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction against the program,
ignoring the plaintiffs' claims of violations under Title IX. The court
also wrongfully found that the school board did not violate the Equal
Protection Clause because it did not intend to harm the students.
However, the court noted that the segregation of students by sex was
based on "extremely flawed" data and that the program itself had been
wrongfully implemented, and ordered that the program be modified.

"Despite modifications to the
sex-segregated program in Vermilion Parish, we maintain that the policy
results in unequal access to education," said Katie Schwartzmann, Legal
Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Boys and girls will be less prepared
to succeed in the world if they do not socialize, compete and
collaborate with members of the opposite sex in school. Real life is not
separated by sex any more than it is separated by race or religion."

The original lawsuit was filed on
behalf of two girls who were placed in single-sex classrooms at Rene A.
Rost, despite their parents' wishes that they opt-out of the
sex-segregated program. 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
coeducational option. However, when the school year commenced, a
mandatory sex segregation policy remained in place and parents soon
learned that the only "coeducational" option was a class for students
with special educational requirements.

Despite the court's mandated changes
to the program, it remains rooted in flawed research and unsubstantiated
ideas about the average abilities and learning styles of boys and

"The district court's ruling ignores
previous statutes, regulations and Supreme Court decisions that
establish high and even insurmountable hurdles to single-sex education
in otherwise coed public schools," said Mark W. Friedman, cooperating
attorney from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. "Ignoring those important
laws is all the more regrettable given that the evidence plainly
established that sex segregation at Rene A. Rost was ill-conceived,
poorly executed and denied parents educational choice."

A copy of the appeal brief can be
found at:

More on this case can be found 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