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US Education Dept. relaxing single-sex classroom regulations

[JURIST] The US Department of Education [official website] announced [press release] Tuesday that it is changing its regulations in order to allow public schools more discretion in providing for the separate education of boys and girls. The changes, to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, will affect how anti-discrimination provisions in Title IX [text] are applied by allowing same-sex classes [backgrounder], grade levels, or even entire schools. The Bush administration is seeking the changes after reviewing 5,600 public comments and studies that suggest higher achievement and less disciplinary issues in single-sex classrooms. The current rules, implemented in 1975, only allow same-sex classes in gym or sex education classes. The proposed changes would enable school boards to segregate any course if it would offer an educational benefit, such as higher attendance or increased student comfort. Any school that segregates based on sex would be required to offer a co-ed version of the course, and enrollment in a same-sex class would always be voluntary.

Critics of the plan include the American Association of University Women, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites]. The ACLU opposed a plan in Louisiana to segregate two middle schools; the plan was ultimately dropped. The US Education Department changes are set for implementation Nov. 24. Most schools are likely to wait until the spring semester to begin analyzing whether such plans would work with their students. Only elementary and secondary schools would be able to segregate students by sex under the new rules. School districts would be required to evaluate their compliance with Title IX every two years. AP has more.

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