Federal File

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Paper Work

Each year, the paper tide sweeps over the nation's capital, pushed along by new laws and new political agendas.

Last year, federal agencies issued more than 40,000 pages of regulations in the Federal Register, according to that office. The Department of Education was one such agency, and on Dec. 22, it provided a preview of forthcoming regulations that will address some of the most heavily scrutinized issues in K- 12 education.

In its "semiannual regulatory agenda," the Education Department said it was considering issuing new regulations that would provide more flexibility for single-sex classes and programs in elementary and secondary schools. Such regulations interpret Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs receiving federal funds.

Existing regulations generally limit the use of single-sex programs in public schools. Department officials have said publicly over the past few years that they intend to review current regulations and ease strict interpretations of them.

Jocelyn Samuels, the vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center in Washington, said her organization does not see a need to change restrictions in the law. Current safeguards in the law "are necessary so that [single-sex classes] are not used to reinforce stereotypes," she said.

The department also noted its intention to issue regulations to ensure that Boys Scouts of America groups are not denied the right to meet in school facilities that other youth and community groups are allowed to use. In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the Scouts to exclude homosexuals, and controversies over public schools' treatment of the Scouts, Congress included language in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 guaranteeing the Boy Scouts equal access to schools.

Gregg Shields, the national spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based BSA, said he hoped the law and subsequent regulations "would put any school on notice that the Boy Scouts deserve equal treatment—no more, no less."

Agencies generally have flexibility on when they release proposed regulations, if they choose to issue them at all, said James Hemphill, the special assistant to the director of the Federal Register.

—Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 23, Issue 18, Page 20

Published in Print: January 14, 2004, as Federal File

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