Sunday, June 06, 2010

Falsified Data Justified Sex-Segregated Middle School

The ACLU continues to challenge the sex-segregated middle school in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, having recently filed an appeal of the district court's refusal to issue a preliminary injunction against continuing to separate boys and girls in core curriculum and other classes. (See also our prior post here).

The ACLU's appellate brief is a fascinating read. The brief argues that the district court should have found a high likelihood of success on the merits (a key consideration in preliminary injunction analysis) because the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX require schools to have an "extremely persuasive" justification or "important objective" for treating boys and girls differently in the education context. Yet the only justification for the segregation at Rene Rost Middle School were results from a small-scale study conducted by Principal David Dupuis during the 2008-2009 school year, which we now understand to have been falsified and erroneous. Since touting that the segregated classes in the study produced higher graders and fewer disciplinary problems, Dupuis, who conducted the experiment as part of his doctoral dissertation, has admitted to including grades of students who were not part of the experiment in his findings in order to make the case that segregated had better report cards than co-educated students. It is also clear that he omitted the grades of students who were part of the experiment but who did not earn higher grades in the segregated classes. In fact, when these grades are factored in, Dupuis's experiment shows that grades decreased in segregated classes, despite his claims to the contrary. Dupuis also admitted to errors that belied his findings that disciplinary infractions decreased in sex-segregated classes.

Not only is this outrageous behavior on the part of the principal (I hope Nova Southeastern University, who awarded him an Ed.D., is paying attention to the academic fraud issue!), it clearly does not satisfy the legal requirements for different treatment on the basis of sex. When bogus claims of "findings" are stripped away, the only justifications for segregated classes that seem to remain are the tired old stereotypes and folk-beliefs about the differences between boys and girls.