Last week the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Education (ED) determined that Idaho’s Middleton School District was in violation of Title IX for segregating elementary school students into all-girl and all-boy classrooms.
A complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that since 2006, Middleton Heights Elementary School separated 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders into classrooms by sex under the debunked theory that boys’ and girls’ brains are fundamentally different, and therefore they need to be taught in different ways.
According to the ACLU, “The school did this by, for example, providing boys with more space to move around, asking boys questions about actions in English class and girls questions about characters’ emotions, and emphasizing competition for boys and cooperation for girls.” There is no evidence that this type of education benefits children of either sex, and, in fact, this model can contribute to illegal sex discrimination and stereotyping.
Not only was the school unable to justify the sex-segregated classrooms, but the ED’s investigation discovered that the practice led to discriminatory educational opportunities. For example the student-to-teacher ratio was lower in almost all of the boys’ classes than it was in both the girls’ classes and the coed classes. Similarly, there was no adequate justification for single sex instruction in any subject based on beginning year sex differences or on comparative improvement data from previous years. Also for many years the school failed to notify parents that the single-sex classes were completely voluntary or to obtain their consent for their child’s participation.
The Middleton Heights Elementary School returned to co-educational classrooms at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Under the OCR resolution agreement the school will provide public website notification that it is discontinuing the single sex classes and remain under ED supervision until 2020. It must also provide Title IX training and other justification requirements if it plans to re-institute any single sex classes.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s (FMF) 2014 report “Identifying K-12 Public Schools with Deliberate Sex Segregation” identified 699 coed public K-12 schools offering some type of all-boys and all-girls classrooms and 106 public single sex schools.
In December 2014 OCR issued guidance on justifications needed for single-sex public education. Title IX Coordinators and educators with questions about what constitutes an adequate justification for single-sex classrooms can access the OCR Questions and Answers guidance here.
The 2016, the FMF report on “Reinvigorating the Role of the Title IX Coordinator” describes how to find the names and contact information for 23,000 school district and post-secondary education Title IX Coordinators.