The US Department of Education (ED) announced changes to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on Wednesday that will “expand flexibility” for the creation of sex-segregated classrooms, programs, and entire schools with public funds. The new regulations will allow educators to experiment with single-sex learning environments.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal said of the changes, “This is yet another direct assault on Title IX by the Bush administration which could open the door for separate and unequal education for countless girls throughout the United States. It must be taken seriously.”
Previously, Title IX prohibited public coeducational schools from offering single-sex classes and extracurricular activities except under very limited circumstances, such as physical education classes involving contact sports, sex education classes, and “remedial” or “affirmative” activities. Under the new regulations, non-vocational single-sex classes may be offered for less-defined reasons, such as “improving the educational achievement of students” or “providing diverse educational opportunities.”
Opposition to the new regulations is massive. In 2004, 6,000 public comments, including one from FMF (PDF), objected to ED proposals that were similar to the recently approved changes. Women’s advocacy groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Association of University Women, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the American Civil Liberties Union, oppose this weakening of Title IX. Instead, advocates of gender equality emphasize the need to strengthen public schools and co-ed learning. NOW President Kim Gandy said that sex-segregated education “pulls resources away from dealing with a broken public school systemÉ It doesn’t prepare boys and girls for the real world, where they will have to interact with and work alongside each other.” Gandy continued, saying that “increased funding to schools, smaller class sizes, more resources, and training to teachers, and more attention to students” are the true measures needed to improve public education.