Feds Plan to Ease Restrictions on Single-Sex Schools

Published August 30, 2002

The U.S. Department of Education has announced it intends to relax regulations on single-sex schools and classes while continuing to prohibit discrimination in accordance with the Education Amendments of 1972.

Currently, stringent regulations restrict the opening of all-boys and all-girls public schools, although research shows such environments promote academic achievement, particularly for disadvantaged youth.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs supported by federal aid. The law states no person can be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of a program or activity on the basis of sex. Current Title IX regulations generally prohibit single-sex classes or activities. Exceptions are made for physical education activities that require bodily contact, sexual education classes, remedial education, and affirmative action.

While the regulations do not outright prohibit same-sex schools, they make it difficult for school districts to open and operate them. Only 11 such public schools exist in the U.S.

Research suggests single-sex schools and classes benefit girls and low-income and minority boys. Benefits include enhanced achievement, character development, and reduced disciplinary problems.

Regulatory flexibility would enable more school districts to open single-sex schools and classes. The addition of new schools would give parents more options for their children’s schooling, and would also enable researchers to take a closer look at the benefits of single-sex education.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required the Department of Education to issue guidelines regarding single-sex classes and schools within 120 days of enactment. The Department issued notice in May, calling for written comments on its proposal to support single-sex education. The department would allow school districts to use funds for single-sex classes and schools so long as they are consistent with Title IX.

July 8 was the deadline for written comments on the department’s proposal. After reviewing the comments, the department will issue new regulations and give the public an opportunity to review them and make further recommendations.

Krista Kafer is senior policy analyst for education at The Heritage Foundation. Her email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The U.S. Department of Education’s May 8 news release concerning its approach to single-sex schools is available on the Internet at http://www.ed.gov/PressReleases/05-2002/05082002.html. That document includes links to the department’s published notice of intent to regulate (http://www.ed.gov/ocr/t9-noi-ss.html) and guidelines for single-sex schools and classes (http://www.ed.gov/ocr/t9-guidelines-ss.html).