Feb 25, 2010 9:10 AM by Kate Mundy

Sex Segregated Classrooms Topic of Hearing

The American Civil Liberties Union is trying to stop sex-segregated classes from being offered at Rene Rost Middle School in Kaplan.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Vermilion Parish School Board on behalf of a parent and her two daughters, sixth and eighth grade students at the school.

All sides were in Lafayette Wednesday for a preliminary injunction hearing. It's is the first court hearing ever on same sex segregation in coed public schools.
The parent the court is calling "Jane Doe" claims the boys and girls were separated, without consulting parents first. She learned about the plan at orientation on August 4, 2009.  "Doe" told the court that a letter giving families an option, came after school started. She said it took until September 9  to reassign her sixth grade daughter "Jill" to coed classes.  And according to the ACLU, there was no real choice.

They claim that parents were only choosing between sex-segregated classes or pre-existing special education classes that had always been coed.

In court Wednesday morning, "Doe" agreed that the classes were not equal. The boys and girls were reading different books. The boys were reading "Where the Red Fern Grows," the girl were assigned "Witch of Blackbird Pond." Doe also said "Jill" was placed in a coed class that was majority "special needs."

The parent told the judge that her oldest daughter "Joan," lost her competitive edge as a result of same-sex education. Her daughter she said, is less likely to assert herself with other girls.

The ACLU said 33 percent of parents selected coed classes for their kids after returning the letters sent home at the end of August.  But the school district today, 80 percent of Rene Rost Middle School classrooms are single sex.

"Doe" wants all classes co-ed, saying it's the world we live in, and the kids learn valuable social skills. The ACLU agrees; "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," stated ACLU Women's Rights Project Director Lenora Lapidus.

Lapidus said the Vermilion Parish School Board is violating Title IV and the equal protection clause of the constitution. "This is a trend in school districts around the country and we think it is really a dangerous trend that is denying our children an equal educational opportunities," said Lapidus.

Attorneys for the school board say the program is fair and equitable. "We don't believe it violates the constitution the congress has authorized it in title nine, in the no child left behind act, they've authorized single sex classes as long as there's a coed option and we have that," said Attorney Calvin "Woody" Woodruff.  The school also offers coed electives, recess and lunch.

The hearing continues through Friday. Judge Richard Haik will hear from school administrators, guidance counselors and other parents.


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