Nation - Louisiana Justice Dept. sides with ACLU in challenge of single sex classes

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with the American Civil Liberties Union in its challenge of single-gender classes at a Kaplan middle school.

In April, U.S. District Judge Richard Haik denied the ACLU's motion to stop single-sex classes at Rene Rost Middle School and set up a plan for the school to continue the classes in August.

The Justice Department has filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the ACLU's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Rost parent and her two daughters.

The lawsuit claimed that the classes violated students' rights to an equal education, Title IX and other federal regulations.

The Justice Department brief supports ACLU's claims that the single-sex education classes failed to meet federal regulations governing the implementation of single-sex classes.

Rost implemented single-sex classes in August.

Federal regulations allow single-sex classes under certain conditions: namely if the intention is to provide diversity of education options and the program is designed to meet "particular, identified educational needs of students," according to the federal regulations.

The regulations also mandate "an evenhanded manner" in the implementation of the classes and a "substantially equal" co-educational option must be available.

Participation also must be voluntary.

There was no justifiable evidence presented in court for the program's implementation in 2009-10 or for Haik's order that the program may continue, the Justice Department argued in its brief.

Vermilion Parish School Board's acceptance of the program was based on data presented by Rost Principal David Dupuis, which court testimony and evidence showed was flawed, the brief said.

Without Dupuis' data, "There is no credible evidence demonstrating that single-sex classes are supported by an 'exceedingly persuasive justification,'" the Justice Department said.

In his April ruling, Haik criticized Dupuis and called the school board "negligent" for its failure to investigate and oversee the plan.

There was not sufficient evidence to prove intentional discrimination or harm, Haik ruled.

Haik further ruled the program was proper as long as it is "completely voluntary and there is substantially equal coed opportunity available to every student."

In its brief, the federal agency said opportunity was not available in 2009-10 because court testimony revealed co-educational classes available also served as the designated class for students with special educational needs or Individualized Education Programs.

In court proceedings, Haik questioned the practice and his order requires that individualized services be provided in both co-educational and single-sex classes at each grade level.

Published: Thu, Jun 10, 2010