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ACLU Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Austin ISD Single-Sex Schools

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT
Students at Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy, a new all-boys school on Austin's East Side. The ACLU is asking the federal government to investigate AISD for racial and sex discrimination for creating a single sex school.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is asking the federal government to investigate possible discrimination at the two single-sex campuses in the Austin Independent School District. The ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday.

The ACLU says when the district decided to turn two failing East Austin middle schools into single-sex schools, it used unproven and debunked research about the differences in the way boys and girls learn.

“That girls need quieter, cooperative learning environment, that boys have a shorter attention span and therefore curricula should be adjusted for that," says  Adriana Pinon, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. 

The ACLU also says the group has concerns that racial stereotypes were used to create the schools.

Most of the students who live closest to the Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy are low-income minorities who were automatically assigned to those schools. The ACLU says they didn’t have enough opportunity to opt out of the program.

“We can all agree that many schools are in need of reform," Pinon says. "But we should focus on ensuring that students have access to same proven -- not ones that rely on unproven on how boys and girls learn. Curricula that fosters and perpetuates gender stereotypes is unconstitutional.”

In the past, Austin ISD has said the new single-sex schools offer parents more choice, but the district did not have a specific comment on this complaint before KUT’s deadline.

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