The Education Dept.’s Office for Civil Rights releases guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter detailing schools’ responsibilities under Title IX when partnering with single-sex program providers.
The letter explains that generally, schools are prohibited from engaging with single-sex program providers, but does detail the circumstances under which a school district may work lawfully with “voluntary youth service organizations” under Title IX.
“We know that outside organizations can be great resources for school districts trying to improve the quality and diversity of the educational opportunities they offer,” said DoEd Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We hope this guidance provides schools with additional clarity on how to comply with Title IX’s requirement.”
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law generally bars school districts both from excluding students from educational opportunities based on their sex and from providing significant assistance to outside organizations that do so, but it allows schools to work with certain outside organizations that limit membership by sex, Lhamon said.
The new guidance reminds schools that Title IX prohibits school districts from providing significant assistance—such as financial support, staff, equipment, and facilities—to any outside organization that discriminates on the basis of sex, unless Title IX excepts the organization from its reach, Lhamon said.
The letter explains that Title IX does not apply to the membership practices of voluntary youth service organizations even when they receive significant assistance from a school district.
But the exemption is quite narrow. In order for an organization to qualify for this exemption, its membership must be voluntary, traditionally limited to members of one sex, and principally limited to persons under age 19. The organization also must facilitate public service opportunities for its members, Lhamon said.
Finally, the letter clarifies that, even though Title IX allows a school to provide significant assistance to a voluntary youth service organization, the district still has a Title IX obligation to ensure that girls and boys have comparable educational opportunities overall, Lhamon said.