Posted on: December 31st, 2014

Would it surprise you to learn that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not prohibit single-sex classes in public schools?  Well, it doesn’t!  On December 1, 2014, the U.S. DOE’s Office for Civil Rights issued FAQs on Title IX and single-sex classes.  As a graduate of a single sex middle school and high school I find the idea of the use of single-sex classrooms to achieve higher educational performance fascinating.

Single-Sex Classes

The salient points that I took away from my review of the FAQs are as follows:

1)         The regulations regarding single-sex classes apply to every coeducational, non-vocational public elementary and secondary school, including traditional, charter, and magnet schools and also apply to coeducational private schools that receive federal financial assistance for the DOE (unless the private school is controlled by a religious organization and Title IX’s requirements conflict with the organization’s religious tenets).

2)         Vocational schools that receive federal financial assistance may never limit classes to one sex.

3)         The circumstances under with public coeducational, non-vocational schools can offer single sex classes are generally restricted to: a) contact sports in physical education classes; b) classes or portions of classes that deal with human sexuality; and c) classes and extracurriculars that meet the criteria discussed below.

4)         The criteria that must be met to offer single sex classes are that the single-sex class is based on the school’s important objective to either improve it student’s educational achievement through diverse educational opportunities (the diversity objective), or to meet the particular identified educational needs of its students (the needs objective).  Additionally, the single-sex class must be substantially related to achieving the important objection.

5)         The four other requirements that schools must meet in order to comply with Title IX are that it must implement its educational objective in an evenhanded manner; it must ensure that student enrollment in single-sex classes is completely voluntary; it must provide a substantially equal coeducational class in the same subject; and it must conduct periodic evaluations of the single-sex class not less than every two years to determine its compliance with Title IX.

6)         OCR warns that schools should adopt their written justification for the diversity objective or the needs objective prior to offering a single-sex class because if schools fail to do so, OCR will assume that the school did not go through its due diligence and establish the justification for the single-sex class before it actually offered the class.  And yes, that strikes me as a “guilty until proven innocent approach.”

7)         OCR mentions two primary means by which schools can prove that a single-sex class is substantially related to its important educational objective: 1) comparator schools, and 2) research evidence.

8)         Although the use of single-sex classes is highly circumscribed, it is a tool that educators should not discount if they believe that the evidence supports the application of such classes.

The FAQs is full of examples and a more in depth discussion of the regulations if you are curious and want to learn more.

The purpose of this blog is to provide information. It is neither legal advice nor is it an advertisement for legal services.  Please consult legal counsel for legal advice regarding single-sex classes or Title IX.


Thanks for reading! – Debra




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