Exclusive: Tallapoosa Co. Parents File Gender Discrimination Suit

The Tallapoosa County school district has a federal civil rights lawsuit on it's hands. A group of parents have filed suit claiming gender discrimination in two schools and they are demanding a policy change when school starts back in January. The parents and a school official spoke exclusively with WSFA 12 news about this ongoing situation.

It's a policy that's been in place since the 2008-2009 school year that these Tallapoosa county school parents and concerned citizens say needs to be changed.

"I felt it was strange," Tallapoosa county resident Juanice Cole said

Cole is referring to the gender specific classes at Councill Middle and Dadeville elementary. No female and male interaction is allowed in the classroom; a practice Cole along with four other parents disagree with.

"Because it's not normal to have it and take it away and give it back, what's the point. It shouldn't be implemented in the first place," Cole said.

They've filed a lawsuit requesting the policy be done away with immediately.

"You can't separate kids in the beginning of their purity," Tallapoosa county resident Douglas Heard said.

They claim the schools participated in gender discrimination and that parents had no say in the decision, making it mandatory for nearly 500 students to be in these classes.

"We've not had a parent come and complain to us about it," Tallapoosa County Schools Assistant Superintendent John Wilcox admits that parents had no choice, but says the principal during the 2008-2009 school year at Councill Middle implemented the policy because research showed it may reduce behavior problems and improve the learning environment. Wilcox says it has.

"What we're doing is simply the best thing we can do for their children," Wilcox said.

Wilcox says the district reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union out of court last month agreeing gender specific classes will go away at the end of the school year.

"So they admitted to the policy being wrong," Attorney Eric Hutchins said.

Wilcox says it's not feasible to change in two weeks. He's asking the concerned parents to wait and trust officials will make the adjustments by the next school year.

"This issue was resolved in our resolution with ACLU and there's no reason for this lawsuit and quite frankly we're going to ask that it be dismissed," Wilcox said.

The assistant superintendent says the only reason the district settled with ACLU is because the gender specific classes are in violation of the school lunch program guidelines and the nutrition program would have been pulled.

The lawsuit was filed on December 9th. Assistant superintendent Wilcox says so far, the district has not been served, but is aware of the suit. He says the district's attorney will be handling the case.

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