FoxNews.com, in its Education Center, reports that single-sex schools are becoming more and more popular with public school districts. The educational theory is that students learn more efficiently when segregated by gender.
Popular or not, public school districts should be aware that these schools can create all sorts of problems legally. First, the segregation likely violates Title IX, which requires that all recipients of federal funds provide equal educational opportunities to all persons without regard to gender. Before you think that a district may provide “separate but equal” facilities for boys and girls, think again. Federal regulations implementing Title IX state explicitly that boys and girls may not be placed in separate classes, except in very limited situations (physical education activities including contact sports only and sex education classes).
In addition, these segregated classes likely violate the constitution. The constitution requires equal protection of similarly situated classes of people. In order to treat boys and girls differently, a governmental entity must have a compelling reason for doing so, and must use the least restrictive means of achieving that compelling reason.
Several years ago, VMI faced a legal challenge from a woman who wished to enter that school, despite its long history of admitting only men. The US Supreme Court found that the state of Virginia violated the due process clause by failing to show a compelling reason for keeping this military education male-only. If VMI id not have a compelling reason to keep its educational opportunities single-gender in nature, I do not believe that a public k-12 school district would fare much better.
While some districts are trying these single-sex schools, please be aware that civil rights groups are beginning to attack – and are likely to be successful in doing so.