WASHINGTON (AP) _ A women's education group today gave Attorney General Edwin Meese III its ''supreme snail award,'' saying he had demonstrated ''leadership in maintaining an unjust society.''

The group gave its other ''Silver Snail'' awards to policymakers, states and individuals or institutions it felt had contributed to unenlightened and discriminatory attitudes, worked to maintain barriers, opposed civil rights and helped maintain injustice.

''These are the folks who are making sure that women get nowhere fast,'' said Leslie R. Wolfe, director of the Project on Equal Educational Rights, in announcing the satirical awards.

In giving Meese its top award, PEER said he ''has become a staunch civil rights activist by basically removing any content from the term.''

The group criticized Meese's roles in drafting an order to strike down governmental affirmative action requirements, filing unsolicited briefs to the Supreme Court to strike down earlier decisions including the one that legalized abortion, and trying to reverse a longstanding policy of denying tax breaks to racially discriminatory schools.

Meese's spokesman, Terry Eastland, said he would have no comment on the ''award.'' ''It's a free country,'' he said. ''People can do what they wish to do.''

Cited for other Silver Snail awards were Education Secretary William Bennett, Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, Civil Rights Commission Chairman Clarence Pendleton and Clarence Thomas, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the statistical category, Nevada swept the honors. According to PEER, the state had the lowest percentage of female senior high school principals, the lowest percentage of women computer supervisors and the lowest percentage of girls in non-traditional vocational education courses.

Alabama had the slowest progress in girls' involvement in athletics, the group said, with one girl to every three boys on the playing field for the past several years. Delaware and Utah tied for first place in educational administration, PEER said, with no women superintendents. Utah had no female assistant superintendents, either, the group said.

In other categories, PEER said Iowa had the smallest percentage of women elementary school principals - 11 percent; North Dakota and Rhode Island had no women as junior high school principals; and Rhode Island and Nevada had no women as senior high school principals.

The group awarded ''garden snails'' - ''evidence of continued sluggishness ... right in your own backyard'' - to the Redlands School District in California, the Brown County Community School Unit in Mt. Sterling, Ill., and the Bradford School District in Rome, Pa., among others.

Redlands was recognized ''for its perpetuation of sex segregation and stereotyping'' in giving male and female honor students different tasks during commencement programs - among them assigning the women to make daisy chains.

PEER cited the Mt. Sterling, Ill., district's expulsion of a young woman from the National Honor Society because she became pregnant. A federal judge later overturned the expulsion.

And in Pennsylvania, PEER said the Bradford district replaced volleyball with cheerleading as an official girls' sport although Education Department officials found that this violated federal law. ''Cheerleading is a sport?'' asked Wolfe. ''And catsup is a vegetable.''