[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Wednesday announced [press release] that it had filed an Alabama Open Records Act [text and materials] request to obtain documents related to the Hankins Middle School [official website] policy of educating students in a single-sex environment. In a letter [text, PDF] to the Mobile County School System [official website], the Alabama chapter of the ACLU argued that Title IX [text], the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) [text], and the US Constitution prohibit the segregation of students by gender. They urged the district to abandon the policies in order to avoid litigation. WKRG News has local coverage.
In 2006, the ACLU opposed a Louisiana plan to segregate two middle schools, but the effort was abandoned when in the same year the US Department of Education [official website] changed [press release] its regulations allowing public schools more discretion [JURIST report] in providing for the separate education of boys and girls. The move changes the application of the anti-discrimination provisions in Title IX by allowing gender-segregated classes [backgrounder], grade levels, or even entire schools. The previous rules, implemented in 1975, only allowed gender distinctions in gym or sex education classes. The current rules allow school boards to segregate any course if it would offer an educational benefit, such as higher attendance or increased student comfort. Any school that segregates based on sex is required to offer a co-educational version of the course, and enrollment in a same-sex class is always voluntary. Other critics of the practice include the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) [advocacy websites].