Posted by: bridget | 25 October 2006

Title IX, Single-Sex Education, and NCLB

The Bush Administration, as part of NCLB, has announced a new policy which would allow school districts to create single-sex educational environments. Enrollment would have to be voluntary; resources and opportunities must be “substantially equal.” Previously, Title IX prohibited sex discrimination, with the result that the genders could not be separated unless in contact sports or sex ed.

The pachyderm wonders why this was not permissible before now. It is not sex discrimination to have separate schools; this is hardly the ages of Jim Crow. Considering that women outperform men in high school, it’s hard to imagine that separate educational environments would be considered harmful to girls as a disadvantaged group. The VMI case, which addressed the issue of single-sex state education, left open the possibility that single-sex education could pass constitutional muster: the real issue was that Virginia did not have an overall scheme for a variety of educational experiences, all of which were equal. A Virginia woman who desired military education could only receive it at Mary Baldwin College, a much less prestiguous school: the curricula, funds, and reputations of the schools could not be considered equal.

As Title IX was already in place and jurisprudence has not radically changed since 1996 (and certainly not in a way that would work against single-sex education), why does the Bush administration (or the executive branch, for that matter) need to give approval for single-sex education? Why is it not presumed that you could do this – after all, Title IX can hardly be read as a mandate for complete coeducation?

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