ACLU Suing Middle School for Single-Sex Classes

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit to stop a middle school in Kentucky from offering all-boy and all-girl classes, and to challenge the 2006 Department of Education policy that has allowed these setups.

The lawsuit claims that the single-sex classrooms in Breckinridge County Middle School are illegal and discriminatory, calling into question a practice that many public schools nationwide have implemented in recent years.

"We are challenging the U.S. Department of Education regulations which have led schools across the country to experiment with sex-segregated classes," said Emily Martin, the lead ACLU attorney on the case. "We are saying that the rules the Department of Education set out are insufficient to ensure equality here."

Leonard Sax, a lead proponent of single-sex education as an option, said the ACLU has been searching for three years for a school that had problems implementing the department's policy, in order to select a case that would encourage a court to overturn the policy.

"Now they think they've found it," he said.

Single-sex schooling is fiercely debated in academic circles. In 2006, the Department of Education issued more lenient regulations governing single-sex classes in public schools.

The new regulations allowed public schools to implement these classes provided certain criteria were met, including that it have an important government objective, that boys and girls be treated in an "evenhanded" way, and that coeducational classes are also available.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville, runs on two tracks - accusations against the Breckinridge County Board of Education and accusations against the DOE policy.

According to the ACLU, which is representing five families, the single-sex plan at Breckinridge was exceptionally problematic because, among other shortfalls, boys' classes and girls' classes differed in textbooks and the rates in which they covered academic materials.

The ACLU also charges that in the current school year, students were assigned to either same-sex or coeducational classes without parent or student input, which violated the Department of Education policy. The group also argues that in some instances, the coed classes offered at Breckinridge were subpar to the single-sex classes in the same subject.

Ms. Martin said the ACLU isn't trying to rid public schools of all single-sex classes, noting that in sex education and sports they are appropriate and legal.

The school, which has about 600 students in grades 6 through 8, began with single-sex math and science classes in 2003 and has since expanded to other subjects, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU suit - which builds on an existing private lawsuit against the school - argued that Breckinridge's setup violates several laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment. …