Same-Sex Public School Limits to Loosen
Wed Mar 3, 1:31 PM ET
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By BEN FELLER, AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON - Federal officials plan to significantly loosen their 
restrictions on same-sex public education, giving schools the most 
freedom they've had to teach boys and girls separately in almost 30 


In changing its enforcement of Title IX, the landmark law that 
prohibited sex-based discrimination in schools, the Education Department 
says it will expand choices for parents without eroding equal 
opportunity. The regulations announced Wednesday reflect a push by both 
the Bush administration and female senators of both parties to give 
schools flexibility.

"We're not suggesting that any particular kid ought to be in a 
single-sex setting," said a department official familiar with the 
changes. "Educators and parents can make that decision. But the point 
is, they don't have the freedom to make that decision even if they think 
it's appropriate for their children...We're suggesting this ought to at 
least be part of the mix."

Since 1975, when current rules went into effect, single-sex classes have 
been allowed only in limited cases, such as gym classes involving 
contact sports. The proposed rules would broaden the options 
considerably, allowing school districts to launch single-sex classes to 
provide a diversity of choices or to meet the particular education needs 
of their students.

Schools would have to be "evenhanded," meaning they must treat boys and 
girls equally in determining what courses to offer, and ensure any 
involvement in single-gender classes is voluntary. For every single-sex 
class they offer, schools would not be required to offer the other 
gender the same separate class, but they would have to offer a coed 
version of it.

The department's plan would also make it easier to create entire 
single-sex schools.

Current rules allow those schools, but only when a district creates a 
single-sex school with comparable benefits for the other gender. That 
restriction would disappear.

Districts would still have to provide "substantially equal" benefits to 
whichever sex is excluded from a single-sex school, but they could do so 
in a standard, coed school.

The changes will not take effect immediately. The regulations will be 
open for public comment for 45 days, and officials expect a final 
regulation within a few months.

The impetus for change came in 2001, when Congress passed a sweeping 
education law that called single-sex classes an innovative option and 
opened them to federal funds. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, 
Democrat Hillary Clinton (news - web sites) of New York and other female 
senators led the charge, saying single-sex classes should be a viable 
public school choice.

Since then, schools have been in legal limbo, awaiting clarification 
from the department, said Leonard Sax, executive director of the 
National Association For Single Sex Public Education. At least 91 of the 
nation's 91,000 schools offer some form of single-sex education, with 
most of those cases popping up in the last few years.

Although U.S. research on single-sex schooling is limited, advocates say 
studies point to better student achievement, leadership and attendance 
and fewer discipline problems. But critics, including the American Civil 
Liberties Union (news - web sites), have criticized single-sex classes 
as separate-but-unequal experiments that don't prepare students for the 
integrated world.

The new proposal is written to affect elementary and secondary 
education, not colleges. Single-sex vocational schools at the K-12 level 
would remain prohibited.


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