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ACLU Files Appeal Brief Challenging Sex-Segregation Case

On May 28, the ACLU Women's Rights Project and the ACLU of Louisiana filed an appeal brief challenging the legality of sex-segregated classes at Rene A. Rost Middle School in the Vermilion Parish School District of Kaplan, Louisiana. The ACLU contends that the school district's policy, which is based on the idea that sex-segregated classes cater to the different learning styles of boys and girls, is in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act, and the US Constitution.

The case originated in August 2009 after "Joan Doe", a mother of two students at the school learned that her daughters would be forced to enroll in sex-segregated classes, despite Rene A. Post being a public, coeducational school. Several weeks later, after Joan Doe was told that the district would be revising their system to introduce more coeducational options, she found that the revised system only allowed students to choose between sex-segregated classes and pre-existing coeducational special education classes.

In September, the ACLU filed suit against Vermilion Parish School District on behalf of Joan Doe. In April, the ACLU reports that a district court rejected their request for a preliminary injunction against the program, citing that the sex segregated program did not breach the Equal Education Opportunities Act as the program was not meant to damage the students. The court remarked that the sex-segregated program required modification because it was based on "extremely flawed" data and had been wrongfully implemented.

An amicus brief filed by the National Women's Law Center states that "because of the Defendants' failure to show an exceedingly persuasive justification for the single-sex plan, the plan is unconstitutional both as implemented and as modified by the order of the District Court." The brief continues, "The inaccurate, unreliable, and inconclusive study on which Vermilion Parish's single-sex classes are based and the harmful stereotypes about differences in the interests and abilities of boys and girls that it claims supports the differentiated instruction simply cannot survive heightened constitutional scrutiny."

The ACLU Blog of Rights argues that "It is indeed unlikely that any sex segregation within a coed school can be acceptable under Title IX, which was intended to prohibit sex-based distinctions among students in the same manner that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited race-based classifications." It continues, "The real world does not segregate men from women. A public school environment that teaches that males and females are so fundamentally different that they must be educated separately does all children - and ultimately society - an injustice."

Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 2/26/10; American Civil Liberties Union 5/28/10; United States Court of Appeals 5/28/10; American Civil Liberties Union 2/24/10

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