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Inside The Law

Government Spotlight

The Push for Same-Sex Schooling

Would boys focus more on schoolwork without the distraction of girls in their class? Would girls be more assertive in school without worrying about competing with boys? The U.S. Department of Education is willing to give the idea a try.

Its latest initiative to improve U.S. education is same-sex schooling. The hope is that by separating girls from boys, the focus will be more on academics and less on socializing.

The DOE wants the laws-now restrictive on separating girls from boys in public education-to be more lenient, according to a proposal it filed with the Federal Registry. The proposal is the follow-up to a $3 million appropriation written into the No Child Left Behind Act under "innovative programs."

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige acknowledges that Title IX will have to be interpreted for same-sex education to become mainstream. Title IX, which became law 30 years ago, calls for equal treatment of girls and boys in public education. Currently, Title IX generally allows public schools to separate the sexes for classes such as sex ed and gym. Boys and girls can even be separated for vocal instruction, notes Denise Cardinal, a senior press officer with the National Education Association.

There are only 11 public schools in the U.S. that separate the sexes. Several of them have been financed by Brighter Choice Foundation, a nonprofit that also helps same-sex schools work around the legal challenges in Title IX.

Despite such a small sample of samesex schools from which to draw conclusions, Paige notes the concept holds promise. He announced his latest initiative at the Young Women's Leadership School in Harlem, a school where "the majority of students are reading above grade level, and their pass rates on local exams are higher than city averages."

The DOE has also held Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C., as a successful example of same-sex schooling. After creating same sex classes last year, Moten has improved its scores on Standard 9 tests. After one year of same-sex schooling, 88 percent of students were in either the advanced or proficient category for math testing. That was up from 49 percent.

Paige acknowledges, though, that the evidence on same-sex schooling is anecdotal. In addition to pushing for more trials, he wants to collect comments and perspective from parents, community leaders and education organizations.

The NEA is calling for more research to be done before major changes are made. "Our position is that Title IX shouldn't be tinkered with right now," Cardinal insists. It shouldn't be changed until there is more support to the claim that same-sex schooling improves education, she argues.

Supreme Court Allows Random Drug Tests

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed for random drug tests to be conducted on students who participate in extra-curricular activities. The decision struck down the case made by Lindsay Earls, a graduate of Tecumseh (Kan.) High School and her attorneys. They argued that a random drug test on school grounds violated the right to privacy. In the opinion, the majority of justices stated that keeping drugs out of school outweighed the right to privacy. The justices have also heard a legal argument proposed by the Bush Administration at schools should be allowed to do school-wide drug testing. The justices have not issued an opinion on this issue.

Schools Gain Victory in Student-Privacy Case

In a decision deemed a victory for education administrators, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students cannot sue colleges, universities or K12 schools that release grades or personal information. The specific case involved Ru Paster, a former student of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., who sued the school for releasing a school file to officials at a state education department, where he was being considered for a teaching job.

The file documented unproven allegations that Paster sexually assaulted another