On Wednesday, the Department of Education proposed regulations that would extensively weaken Title IX, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded education. The Department of Education proposal would make it significantly easier for schools and school districts to have single sex classes and single sex schools. Alarmingly, the regulations would permit schools to offer separate schools and classes by sex, but contains no requirement that the facilities offered to the two sexes be identical or equal.
Currently, Title IX permits single sex classes when they are needed to overcome the effects of gender discrimination. The proposed regulations would allow such classes in many more cases and no longer ties these classes to overcoming the effects of discrimination. The regulations would 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. “Substantially equal” is not specifically defined in the regulation. However, the Department is very clear that equal or identical treatment is not required. For example, if boys are given a single sex class with two teachers, the “substantially equal” class for girls could have only one instructor.
“It is appalling,” stated Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, “that in the year that marks the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the case that taught us that separate is never equal, the Department of Education has issued proposed regulations that plan to separate the sexes and does not even promise us equality.”
Many studies have found that there is no evidence that the single-sex nature of single-sex schools actually benefit male or female students. The qualities that make single-sex schools and classes attractive – fewer students, motivated parents, motivated teachers, and resources – are the same factors that make any school successful.