NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 24, 2006

The Bush administration is giving public schools wider latitude to teach boys and girls separately in what is considered the biggest change to coed classrooms in more than three decades.

After a two-year wait, the Education Department issued final rules Tuesday detailing how it will enforce the Title IX landmark anti-discrimination law:

  • Under the change taking effect Nov. 24, local school leaders will have discretion to create same-sex classes for subjects such as math, a grade level or even an entire school.
  • Education officials initially proposed the rules in early 2004, pointing in part to some U.S. research suggesting better student achievement and fewer discipline problems in single-sex classes including math and foreign languages.
  • After receiving 5,600 public comments, education officials said they were moving forward with the plan with some wording tweaks and assurances from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that it was legally sound.

Since current rules began in 1975, single-sex classes have been allowed only in limited cases, such as sex education courses or gym classes involving contact sports:

  • Under the new rules, schools could separate genders for a variety of subjects if they believed it offered educational benefits, such as promoting greater student comfort or higher attendance. 
  • In all cases, enrollment in a single-sex class would be voluntary.
  • If a school creates a single-sex class, it would not be required to offer the other gender its own similar class, but it would have to offer a coed version of it.
  • The rules also make it easier to create single-sex schools, as long as the district can demonstrate that it also provides coed schools with "substantially equal" benefits to the excluded sex.

Source: Hope Yen, "U.S. limits on same-sex schools to ease," Associated Press/Contra Costa Times, October 24, 2006.

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