ACLU and Sex and Racial Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today requested the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigate the Austin Independent School District (AISD) for unlawful sex and racial discrimination against students in two of the city’s lowest-income middle school.  The complaint, based on records obtained by the ACLU, raises concerns that AISD used widely debunked pseudo-science about differences in the way boys and girls learn, as well as harmful gender and racial stereotypes, to justify the separation of students by sex at the Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy (formerly Pearce Middle School). Students zoned for the two schools were automatically assigned to the new “single-gender” program at Garcia and Sadler middle schools, without a meaningful opportunity to opt out.

“We can all agree that too many schools are failing our children and need reforms, but why implement a blanket separation of boys and girls in one part of the city, when the school district itself has acknowledged there’s no clear evidence that this approach actually helps children learn?” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Research shows that students succeed when they have a high-quality education and parents who are engaged and making choices for them. Let’s focus on ensuring all students have access to the same proven educational opportunities, rather than turn to bad science for a ‘quick-fix’.”

Neighborhoods zoned for Garcia and Sadler schools are composed of 97.4 and 94.1 percent Hispanic and Black school-age children, respectively.

“Unfortunately, single-sex school proponents increasingly target schools in minority communities through unsupported claims that they’ll help close the achievement gaps for boys of color,” said Courtney Bowie, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “These assertions, much like those we saw in internal AISD documents, rely on generalizations about black boys, such as that they’re difficult to control and have more discipline problems. But there is no valid evidence that separating students by sex improves academic achievement for children of any racial or ethnic background.”

The ACLU’s complaint quotes district planning documents explaining that the single-sex schools would be tailored to address “gender-specific needs” and “incorporate differences in male/female brain development.” The complaint further cites documents from district trainings that instruct teachers to adjust their expectations for African American boys, in particular, because they have a propensity to be “more aggressive” and “not as neat.”

“The school district adopted this single-sex program in one of Austin’s poorest districts even though its justification—that boys’ and girls’ brains are so different that they need to be taught differently—has been widely debunked by scientists,” said Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “Teaching students based on these sex stereotypes has never been proven to improve educational outcomes.”

“All students learn differently, and our public schools simply should not be in the business of making crude judgments about children’s educational needs based solely on whether they are a boy or a girl,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “We are calling upon the United States Department of Education not only to investigate, but also to make clear to schools across the country that sex segregation based on these types of blatant sex stereotypes violates the law.”

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Texas may be next in dialing back solitary confinement

BY RHIANNON HAMAM

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) is expected to review its policies regarding solitary confinement—also known as “administrative segregation”—after advocacy organizations and Texas prison officials have called on the Department to reduce the number of prisoners in solitary confinement. The push comes after several states have taken steps to curtail or restrict the use of keeping convicts in isolation, as well as recent review by the federal government of the issue of mass solitary confinement in our prison systems. Continue reading

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McCutcheon v. FEC could expand contribution limits

BY TREY SMITH

In the next few months, the Supreme Court will issue an opinion in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The case could be a rerun of the controversial Citizens United decision issued in 2010. McCutcheon raises a First Amendment challenge to certain contribution limits that an individual can give to federal candidates and political party organizations. There are basically two kinds of contribution limits: base and aggregate. As the law now stands, an individual can contribute $5,200 to a candidate per election cycle. This is the base limit. The law McCutcheon challenges, the aggregate limits, are a separate limit placed atop the base limits. The amount of money given to a candidate must be below the base limits, and the sum total of all money given to all candidates must fall below the aggregate limit. McCutcheon argues that the aggregate limit violates his right to associate himself politically. Continue reading

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Live Updates: Diversity in Higher Education Post-Fisher

Welcome to Diversity in Higher Education Post-Fisher! TJCLCR will be updating you throughout the day with recaps and highlights from the conference’s speakers and panels. Click here to see a complete schedule of today’s events.

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Johnson’s Legacy Reevaluated

BY JARED JANES

Consider it President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legacy at mid-life.

More than 40 years after his death, the presidency of LBJ is being reconsidered thanks to semicentennial celebrations of the landmark legislation he signed while in office. From civil rights to immigration reform to the War on Poverty, the former Senate Majority Leader cajoled Congress into passing consequential programs that still continue to shape the American landscape.

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Federal Judge Rules Texas’ Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

BY MADELINE SCHLESINGER

On February 26, Judge Orlando Garcia of the United States District Court in San Antonio held that the Texas Constitution’s prohibition of gay marriage conflicts with the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. Although this ruling was cause for celebration for gay rights activists in the state, the victory was admittedly only partial. The ban on same-sex marriage still remains in effect, and the State has appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans—one of the most conservative appeals panels in the nation. Texas Governor Rick Perry, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, has vowed to “continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state.”

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Is the Level of Christian Doctrine in Texas Public Schools Unconstitutional?

BY CHRISTOPHER LAMOUREUX

Texas has been ridiculed for the choices the Texas Board of Education makes in deciding what is and is not included in their science and history curriculum. The decisions that Texas makes receive a good deal of attention not only because of their questionable nature but also because the sheer volume of textbooks ordered impacts what textbooks are available for a large swath of America. Continue reading

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