The Vermilion Parish School Board has agreed to rescind an unlawful plan for mandatory sex-segregated classrooms, at the request of the ACLU of Louisiana. Rene A. Rost Middle School was slated to begin this school year with girls-only and boys-only classes, without obtaining parental consent or providing a coeducational education as required by law. Students at other Vermilion Parish schools were segregated by sex in previous school years, also without parental consent or choice. On August 20, the School Board decided to make single-sex classes optional and to provide coeducational classes at all levels and in all schools, as the law requires.
"The law is clear that educational opportunities for students cannot be determined by gender without an exceedingly persuasive justification," said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman. "Just as students may not be divided by race, they must not be forced into sex-segregated classes, because equal opportunity means that all must be treated equally."
Studies that purport to show improved performance in single-sex classrooms have not stood up to scrutiny, because they have not considered additional factors such as class size, school resources, and socio-economic status. Where those variables are considered, students in same-sex classrooms fare no differently than their peers in co-ed classes. "Providing the best educational environment for all students means that everyone must have the same resources in the classroom," said Esman. "Forcing girls and boys to be educated in separate classrooms can lead to differences in curriculum and resources, in violation of the law and the best interests of the students."
"We are continuing to investigate how the Vermilion Parish plan is implemented," said ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann, who negotiated the agreement with the School Board. "When children are separated based upon sex, even if that separation is voluntary, teachers likely are instructing them differently. Children must be taught according to their individual needs, rather than based upon out-dated, antiquated gender stereotypes about the proper roles for boys and girls. However, we're pleased that the Vermilion Parish School Board recognizes that families must have the right to choose whether to separate their children in the classroom."