WASHINGTON – The Maryland State Department of Education has not taken an official position on the Bush administration’s plan to expand single-sex public education, but a department officer has spoken out against the new regulations.
Linda Shevitz, the state Education Department’s Title IX coordinator, wrote to the U.S. Department of Education with “serious reservations concerning the proposal.”
Shevitz was careful to point out this week that she wrote the letter not in her role as a state administrator but as a private citizen and a member of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education.
“The Department of Education should be looking at what factors will work for all students, regardless of income, race, disability, language proficiency, and gender in order to leave no child behind, rather than to focus on single-sex programs,” Shevitz wrote.
“No revisions are needed to the current law,” she wrote. “The department should concentrate its efforts and resources on coeducational programs in which the majority of our students will be enrolled.”
Shevitz maintains that more research is needed on single-sex education before Title IX is tinkered with.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits “discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” It allows single-sex public schools and classes under certain limited conditions.
But its supporters fear that broadening single-sex education can only come at the expense of Title IX.
“The problem with changing any civil rights legislation is that it may open to the door to backsliding,” Shevitz said in a recent interview. “Before Title IX, colleges did not admit women to law schools and women were not permitted to take auto mechanics in high school. The concern is you could go back to where separate does not mean equal.”
State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick — who graduated from Baltimore’s all-girls Western High School in 1957 — has expressed support for Western and all-girls public schools in the past.
But neither she nor her department have yet taken a public stand on any expansion of single-sex education.
Bill Reinhardt, a spokesman for the state department, said he is aware of Shevitz’s comments but that the department will wait and see what the new amendments are before taking any official position or action.
“It hasn’t come up as an issue the department needs to clarify yet,” Reinhardt said.