In March, 2004 the US Department of Education proposed changes to the Title IX regulations that would extensively weaken Title IX by making it significantly easier for schools and school districts to allow single sex classes and single sex schools. On October 25, 2006 the Department of Education issued the final changes to the Title IX Regulations without remedying the key objections of most of the 6,000 people who submitted public comments opposing the 2004 proposed changes.
The original 1975 Title IX regulations permit sex segregated education under very limited circumstances, such as single-sex schools and classes when they are needed to overcome the effects of gender discrimination. The October, 2006 Department of Education changes to the Title IX regulations allow K-12 non vocational single sex schools, classes, and extracurricular activities in elementary and secondary schools for a variety of vague purposes such as “the achievement of an important governmental or educational objective”. These 2006 regulations no longer tie the key justification for allowing this sex segregation to overcoming the effects of sex discrimination, the sole purpose of Title IX.
In its May 2008 expanded lawsuit, ACLU and ACLU of Kentucky argue that the U.S. Department of Education's 2006 regulation changes only apply to federal assistance from the Department of Education. Entities who receive any funding from the other 26 federal agencies with their own Title IX regulations are still explicitly prohibited from having sex segregated programs. The ACLU's May 19, 2008 press release states, "The ACLU lawsuit argues that Breckinridge County Middle School's sex segregation classes are fundamentally unequal and unlawful and violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and the state sex equity law. It also argues that by issuing federal regulations that encourage school districts to segregate students by sex, the U.S. Department of Education has violated the law."
The 2006 U.S. Department of Education Changes Drastically Weaken Title IX and Should Be Rescinded
These 2006 Title IX regulation changes allow separate facilities or classes as long as the gender that is not given the special class or school receives a "substantially equal" educational opportunity probably in a coeducational setting. "Substantially equal" is not specifically defined in the regulation and there are no instructions on how to learn if the single sex activities contribute to increased sex stereotyping and sex discrimination or if they contribute to achieving any important governmental objectives such as increased academic achievement . There is also no expectation that this risky single sex experiment show that it is any better than equitable high quality instruction designed to meet the same needs in mixed sex environments.
FMF and many women's rights groups see this weakening of Title IX and related government encouragement of single sex education as an improper use of Title IX. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education points out that instead of making it clear that Title IX protects against sex discrimination, these rule changes facilitate sex discrimination and should be rescinded.
Increased Sex Segregation Is More Likely to Increase Sex Discrimination and Sex Stereotyping in Public K-12 Education than to Reduce It
After Title IX was passed in 1972, there was a decline in single sex education even in private schools. Instead, the focus was on creating non-sexist coeducational classes and schools. But there was been an increase in sex segregation in K-12 non-vocational public education since 2002, when the Department of Education signaled its intent to be more flexible in allowing the expansion of sex segregated education and its resulting 2006 regulatory changes.
Sex segregation in certain programs (such as in contact sports) may be lawful and helpful in decreasing sex discrimination and promoting desired outcomes such as reducing gender gaps in achievement. However, in many cases sex segregated education is based on false assumptions about sex differences in learning and likely to have negative consequences. Those considering sex segregated instruction should be aware of the following:
Separate is not equal or fair to all . It is very difficult to provide even "substantial" equality in sex segregated schools, classes, or activities, whether we are talking about facilities, quality of instruction, levels of expectations, treatment of students, or preference for a particular teacher.
Sex segregation (allowed under the 2006 regulation changes) is absolute and not totally voluntary. Even advocates of single sex education agree that there is more variation within groups of girls and boys than between them, but they ignore this important truth when excluding everyone of one sex from a class intended for all boys or all girls, even if the excluded girls or boys would fit the criteria for the single sex class designated for the "opposite" sex and want to enroll.
Many assumptions about benefits of sex segregation are educationally unsound. Many of the post 2006 sex segregated classes and schools are based on inaccurate claims of innate student differences by sex and related myths that male and female students learn differently and should receive dissimilar instruction. Good educational practices can and do meet the needs of both girls and boys in a coeducational setting by addressing individual needs and by consciously striving for gender equity in curriculum and instruction.
Research results do not generally support the superiority of sex segregation in advancing student learning or in decreasing sex discrimination. It is difficult to conduct fully equitable comparisons of single sex and coeducational programs or schools to learn what is better, as many other factors may influence the results. Although it is possible that both coeducational and single sex classes may help either eliminate or increase sex stereotyping, increased sex stereotyping is likely to be more of a problem in sex segregated classes. Research to date has not done much to control for other explanations of differences, and the patterns of results from various single studies of sex segregated education do not show consistent superiority on any outcome measures. Additionally, few of these studies examined outcome measures related to decreasing sex discrimination or sex stereotyping. (See Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education, 2007, especially Chapters 9 and 31)
Costs are higher. The separate operation and facilities for single sex education are more costly than comparable coeducation. It takes more time and money to assure that all facilities and resources are equitable for both girls and boys in segregated and mixed sex options. Also, additional resources are needed for staff training and program evaluation.
Evaluations are critically important, but costly. The monitoring and evaluations needed to assure continued parity with equivalent coeducational opportunities and avoidance of increased stereotyping in single sex education “experiments” need to be done carefully and rigorously to meet the Department of Education's own What Works Clearinghouse standards of effectiveness. This is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.
The institutions responsible for the single sex education may face lawsuits. Even before the 2006 Department of Education changes to its Title IX regulations are rescinded, the responsible institution is likely to face a sex discrimination lawsuit based on one or more of the following protections against sex segregation: Title IX regulations from other agencies that provide financial assistance to their institution, the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, the Equal Opportunities Act, or State laws. They are likely to lose these lawsuits even if the wording in the 2006 changes to the Department of Education Title IX regulations is upheld as allowing the sex segregation for vague purposes and if there is no legal determination of non-compliance with these weakened regulations because as the May 2008 ACLU lawsuit argues, the Department of Education changes violate Title IX and the Constitution.
In summary, most efforts to provide sex-segregated education are detrimental and waste resources that instead should be used to end sex stereotyping and discrimination in coeducational environments, especially for the most vulnerable students who face multiple types of discrimination related to poverty, race, ethnicity, disabilities, and sexual identity or orientation.
Title IX has been a highly effective and popular law. It has withstood many challenges. These 2006 Department of Education regulations that encourage sex segregation deliberately undermine the intent of Title IX and will continually threaten the advancement of gender equity in U.S. schools until they are rescinded or otherwise invalidated. There is no right to discriminate on the basis of sex using federal financial assistance to education.
Multi-Year FMF Study Confirms that Increased Sex Segregation Increases Sex Discrimination
In connection with Title IX's 40th Anniversary in June 2012, the Feminist Majority Foundation released a multi-year (2007-10) three part study of single-sex education in U.S. K-12 public schools. This study reveals that after the Bush Department of Education weakened previous Title IX restrictions on sex segregated education in K-12 public schools in 2006, over 1,000 public schools sex segregated at least some of their classes. Read the complete Press Release here and view the report below.
State of Public School Sex Segregation in the United States (2007-2010)
Part I: Patterns of K-12 Single-sex Public Education in the U.S. (PDF)
Part II: Role of States in Addressing Single-sex Public Education (PDF)
Part III: Summary and Recommendations (PDF)
Suggestions for Evaluation Guidelines for Schools Contemplating or Using Single-Sex Education
One of the most common flaws is for U.S. public schools to plan or implement deliberate single-sex classes or schools with inadequate justifications and evidence that doing so will improve outcomes for girls and/or boys and that it will not violate federal Title IX protections prohibiting sex discrimination. The Executive Summary (PDF) outlines three evaluation phases that should be used prior to Title IX coordinators, administrators, school boards, and others approving the initiation or continuation of this sex segregation. Here (PDF) is the full description of the 2013 FMF Evaluation Guidelines. We hope the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice as well as others concerned with full implementation of Title IX will require that they be followed to eliminate the continued unjustified sex discrimination accompanying deliberate sex segregated education.
See Title IX Defined Page for the Department of Education's proposed and final Title IX Regulations and Guidelines on single sex education.
Title IX at 35: Beyond the Headlines, NCWGE, 2008, Chapter on Single Sex Education by Sue Klein, Jan Erickson, & Elizabeth Homer
Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education, NCWGE, 2012, Chapter on Single-Sex Education: Fertile Ground for Discrimination
Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education, 2nd Edition, 2007, especially Chapter 9, Gender Equity in Coeducational and Single Sex Educational Environments, and Chapter 31, Summary and Recommendations for Achieving Gender Equity in and through Education. New York, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Taylor and Francis Group.
Other comments on the proposed changes from the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education
Learn more about the assumptions behind the push for sex segregated schooling by Patricia B. Campbell & Jo Sanders
Title IX and single sex education by Sue Klein
Single-sex schools: A good idea gone wrong? By David Sadker & Karen Zittleman
The Myth of the "Boy Crisis" by Caryl Rivers & Rosalind Barnett
The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling by Diane F. Halpern, Lise Eliot, Rebecca S. Bigler, Richard A. Fabes, Laura D. Hanish, Janet Hyde, Lynn S. Liben, Carol Lynn Martin
Sex-segregated Public Schools: Illegal and Unwise by Vivian Berger