On June 28, the Michigan House of Representatives passed three bills that would allow single-sex public schools, classes, and programs. Similar legislation passed in the MI Senate last week. According to the Bay City Times, MI Governor Jennifer Granholm has indicated that she will approve the decision to create sex-segregated public schools, as long as districts ensure that there is no discrimination. The bills, which amend the Michigan School Code and the Michigan Civil Rights Act, fail to include any measures that would ensure that girls and boys receive equal opportunities. Mary Pollock, the Legislative Vice President of Michigan National Organization for Women, said that these bills will allow “publicly funded sex-segregated education with no safeguards to prevent unconstitutional and illegal sex discrimination.”
The Feminist Majority, along with the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Association of University Women, oppose the weakening of Michigan’s civil rights laws to allow sex-segregated public education. Such developments are reminiscent of segregation-era classrooms in which “separate but equal” was never a reality.
On the national level, in 2004 President Bush’s Department of Education proposed changes to the Title IX regulation to make it significantly easier for schools and school districts to allow sex segregation. The current Title IX regulation already provides exceptions to allow single-sex schools and classes if they are congruent with the purposes of Title IX to end sex discrimination. All but about 100 of the 5,000 public comments opposed this proposed change to use Title IX to advance sex segregation rather than to decrease sex discrimination.
The Michigan legislation does not provide safeguards, such as a review procedure to determine if any proposed single sex education experiment is justified based on past research, or if the single sex education will be evaluated to learn if it increases sex discrimination in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
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