Friday, November 18, 2011

Single-Sex Education Cancelled in Tacoma, Challenged in Missouri

A school district in Tacoma, Washington recently rescinded a single-sex education program that had segregated sixth grade students by sex for classes in all core subjects at Jason Lee Middle School. This change in course occurred after the state of Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction informed the district that state education law actually prohibits single-sex education outside the context of health, physical education, and choir. The district reportedly believed that its program complied with federal Title IX regulations that broadened single-sex education, and did not realize that state law was more restrictive in this regard. However, I'm not sure this program would have survived a challenge even under Title IX, given the regulation's requirement that districts make coed alternatives available, provides students and parents with a choice, and limit single-sex education to those that are "substantially related" to an "important objective." Such a broad scope encompassing all the core subjects in an entire middle school grade definitely raises questions about its compliance with both of those requirements.

Speaking of challenges to single-sex education programs under Title IX, the ACLU has requested that the Adrian School District, outside Kansas City, Missouri, curtail its single-sex education program that offers segregated math and "communication arts" classes in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The ACLU cited growing evidence challenging the efficacy of single-sex education, which calls into question the ability of single-sex education to truly promote an important education objective as required by Title IX regulations or the Equal Protection Clause.