School Climate & Safety

Some Schools Jump the Regulatory Gun, Offering Single-Sex Classes

By Michelle R. Davis — September 04, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Public schools anticipating a change in the federal policy that discourages single-sex education have already started this fall to separate girls and boys for subjects like math and English, and even for lunch.

But existing federal regulations still effectively ban the practice. Department of Education officials say they’ll investigate cases where they receive complaints on the matter, even though they expect new proposed regulations to be released in the next few months.

While a Department of Education commission is examining how Title IX affects males and females on the athletic fields, this other aspect of the same law—equality in the classroom—is slowly being tested across the country.

This year at Southern Leadership Academy, a public middle school in the 95,000-student Jefferson County school district in Kentucky, August brought not only a new school year, but also a new structure. Principal Anita Jones decided to separate boys and girls in her struggling Louisville school.

“We had children who showed potential and capabilities, but they weren’t demonstrating that on tests,” she said. “What we were doing wasn’t working.”

Ms. Jones studied several other schools that had recently tried single-sex education, and with the unanimous blessing of her school’s faculty and the local school council, she decided to try it.

Though the school year is only a few weeks old, Ms. Jones said she has high hopes for the change, which splits the school’s 923 students into male and female classes for everything but band and chorus. “It’s too early too tell, but teachers are already saying they’re getting more writing out of the boys,” Ms. Jones said, adding that she’s had fewer discipline problems as well.

A Work in Progress

But Ms. Jones also knows that Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of sex, discourages single-sex education in publicly financed institutions. Regulations interpreting the statute make it almost impossible for public schools to organize single-gender education, yet Ms. Jones and other principals across the country nonetheless are opting for it.

That’s because in May, the Education Department announced that it was reviewing those regulations and had plans to rewrite them to ease the strict interpretation, a move that would encourage schools to offer single-gender education.

But those regulations haven’t been rewritten yet, said the department’s general counsel, Brian W. Jones. The 60- day public-comment period has closed, but officials still must draft the proposed regulations. Mr. Jones said last week he expected the draft rules to be available for comment within the next several months.

Hold the Phone

In the meantime, the existing regulations are still in effect. Mr. Jones said that the Education Department would continue to enforce them, and that if a complaint were filed against a school over single-sex arrangements, the department would be forced to investigate.

Nancy Zirkin, the director of public policy and government relations for the Washington-based American Association of University Women, said schools should not be so eager to separate girls and boys.

“What they’re doing is totally against existing regulations,” she said of schools that have adopted such policies. “We’re very troubled by this.”

Ms. Jones of Southern Leadership Academy said she was willing to take the risk in her school.

“We’re making sure anything boys have access to, girls have access to,” the principal said. “The Bush administration supports this.”

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leading Systemic Redesign: Strategies from the Field
Learn how your school community can work together to redesign the school system, reengineer instruction, & co-author personalized learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety ‘Their Vote Matters’: Schools Provide Training to Students on Working the Polls
“We just want to make sure that our youth ... know that they’re important, their vote matters, their vote counts, they can get involved."
Jenny Roberts, The Morning Call
4 min read
Allen student Yovian Torres Gomez makes notes on his packet during a poll worker training Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Allen High School. Allen students will be working as clerks, handing out paper ballots and directing them where to go, when voting concludes Tuesday in the general election. Some will also be translating for voters.
Allen student Yovian Torres Gomez makes notes on his packet during a poll worker training Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Allen High School. Allen students will be working as clerks, handing out paper ballots and directing them where to go, when voting concludes Tuesday in the general election. Some will also be translating for voters.
Amy Shortell/The Morning Call via TNS
School Climate & Safety A Parkland Dad Pleads for Action on School Safety
A father whose daughter was killed in the 2018 mass shooting spoke at a summit the day after the gunman was sentenced.
3 min read
A women in a black t-shirt lifts small painted stones out of a cardboard box, placing them on the ground at a memorial covered in flowers in front of a large white masonry sign that says "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."
Suzanne Devine Clark, an elementary school art teacher, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2019, one year after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
School Climate & Safety A School Safety Challenge: Keeping Crowds Secure Under the Glare of Friday Night Lights
Districts aim to keep students and spectators safe during sporting events, which draw large crowds to a less predictable environment.
5 min read
A police officer stands between rows of caution tape outside of a white high school football stadium that is brightly lit against the night sky.
A Tulsa Police officer films the area outside of the McLain High School football stadium in Tulsa, Okla., after a shooting during a Sept. 30 football game.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School Climate & Safety What School Is Like for LGBTQ Students, By the Numbers
Here are survey statistics on harassment, support, and fears experienced by LGBTQ students during pandemic-era schooling.
4 min read
Image of a student with rainbow straps on their backpack.
iSTock/Getty