But did this endeavor actually hurt the female students, or did it provide them an opportunity to study and learn without the often overpowering presence of boys? While the relative academic merit of separate girls' schools is in itself a subject of much debate, the ACLU wasn't interested in educational theory in this case. Their concerns were motivated primarily by what they considered disturbing echoes of racial segregation and discrimination.
Before the Supreme Court's 1954 decision on Brown v. Board of Education, the idea of maintaining "separate but equal" facilities for different groups (generally blacks and whites) was widely accepted, especially in the South. ACLU officials found Parkwood's idea of separate classrooms a bit too reminiscent of a less enlightened era, says TIME legal reporter Alain Sanders. "The ACLU is approaching the problem from a historical perspective, and the history of segregation, racial or gender-based, is one in which women and minorities have consistently gotten the short end of the stick," says Sanders. So just as an odd coalition of religious conservatives and feminists will continue to trumpet the benefits of same-sex classrooms, the ACLU will continue to champion civil rights laws even at the expense of another, perhaps equally valid viewpoint.