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Same-sex education gets boost by Bush plan

Proposing amendments to Title IX regulations

Same-sex education gets boost by Bush plan

From Kelly Wallace

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is pushing rule changes to encourage more single-sex classes and schools, marking a significant change in the U.S. government's 30-year policy prohibiting gender discrimination in public schools.

"This is a complex and sensitive issue that requires a considerable amount of consultations," Education Secretary Rod Paige said in a written statement issued Wednesday. "We believe it is important to receive input from parents, community leaders, and interested educational organizations."

The Education Department's proposal to provide more flexibility to public school districts to allow for more single-sex classes and schools was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday and now goes into a 60-day comment period.

Senior Bush administration officials hailed the move as a way to provide more options to parents. The proposal stems from a provision under the "No Child Left Behind Act," signed into law this year by the president, that allows the federal government to provide $3 million in grants to local school districts to develop single-sex programs.

Challenges expected

Civil rights advocates plan to challenge the proposal, charging that separate public schools for boys and girls raises questions about education equality. Civil rights advocates also question whether this is the best way to prepare boys and girls for the real world.

But proponents of single-sex schools say boys and girls often perform better when members of the opposite sex are not present and point to the records of the dozen or so single-sex public schools in the United States as proof the approach works.

What the Bush administration is proposing are amendments to the regulations implementing Title IX, the 1972 civil rights statute designed to ensure equality for the genders in public schools.

Currently, the law allows federal money to be used to provide single-sex public schools only if the school district makes comparable educational opportunities available for both sexes. What the proposal would do is give the schools districts more flexibility and latitude in determining what constitutes a comparable educational opportunity.

"The purpose of the amendments would be to support efforts of school districts to improve educational outcomes for children and to provide public school parents with a diverse array of educational options that respond to the educational needs of their children, while at the same time ensuring appropriate safeguards against discrimination," the Education Department said in a statement.

The Education Department said it is seeking comment on what justifications would be needed for single-sex classes, what opportunities should exist to ensure equal opportunity for both sexes and whether some types of classes should not be permitted to be single-sex.


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