Thursday, June 12, 2008

ACLU Files Suit Over Single-Sex Education

On behalf of students and parents in Kentucky, the ACLU is suing the Department of Education over the 2006 regulations that relaxed restrictions on single-sex education. This challenge arises in the context of a lawsuit over sex-segregated classrooms in the Breckinridge County Middle School, which the ACLU argues violate Title IX, the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and Kentucky law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. The county board of education and various officials are also defendants.

According to the complaint, BCMS began to segregate math and science classes in 2003 and offer “differentiated instruction” to boys and girls -- including softer lighting in girls' classrooms, tougher math problems in boys' classrooms, hands-on and demonstrative teaching methods in girls' classrooms, and activities and "games" in boys' classrooms. Since 2003, BCMS has expanded the single-sex framework to other courses, and some officials have recommended eliminating coed classes altogether. While BCMS initially offered parents the opportunity to opt out of single-sex classes, this option was not presented to all parents in the most recent school year. Moreover, the coed alternatives that did were available had different textbooks, scope of coverage, and teaching methods such that the parents did not find to be substantially equal to the segregated classes.

ACLU alleges that BCMS's sex-segregation policy, and the Department of Education regulations on which BCMS ostensibly relied, violate Title IX, which prohibits schools from denying educational opportunities to students on the basis of sex. Also, the Department's unreasonable interpretation of its statutory mandate violates the Administrative Procedure Act. Moreover, the ACLU alleges, the regulations are unconstitutional because the do not require schools to have an "exceedingly persuasive justification" behind its decision to segregate, or that segregated classrooms bear a "substantial relationship to an important state interest" as required by the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

For prior posts about the constitutionality of single-sex education, see here and here.