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Published: 2008-03-26

Title IX and Education

Discrimination against students on the basis of sex is prohibited in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance ....

The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education enforces the law prohibiting specific discriminatory activities. The law applies to elementary and secondary as well as postsecondary schools. With certain exceptions, elementary and secondary schools may not assign students to separate classrooms or activities, or prevent them from enrolling in a course of their choice, on the basis of sex. This includes health, physical education, industrial arts, business, vocational, technical, home economics, music and adult education courses.

Segregation of students by sex is allowed under certain circumstances. These exceptions pertain to all educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Exceptions are:

  • In music classes, schools may have requirements based on vocal range or quality, which may result in all-male or all-female choruses.

  • In elementary and secondary schools, portions of classes that deal exclusively with human sexuality may be conducted in separate sessions for boys and girls.

  • In physical education classes or activities, students may be separated by sex when participating in sports where the major purpose or activity involves bodily contact (for example wrestling, boxing, rugby, ice hockey, football, and basketball).

  • Students may be grouped in physical education classes by ability, if objective standards of individual performance are applied. This may result in all-male or all-female ability groups.

  • If the use of a single standard to measure skill or progress in a physical education class has an adverse effect on members of one sex, schools must use appropriate standards that do not have such an effect. For example, if the ability to lift a certain weight is used as a standard for assignment to a swimming class, application of this standard may exclude some girls. The school would have to use other, appropriate standards to make the selection for that class.

    A a school system that operates separate educational programs or activities for members of each sex in accordance with the mentioned exceptions, must ensure that the separate course, services and facilities are comparable.

    An exemption from these requirements may be requested by educational institutions controlled by religious organizations whose tenets conflict with requirements of Title IX.

    For more information on Title IX, you may request OCR publication titled Student Assignment In Elementary And Secondary Schools & Title IX. For a complete understanding of the legal requirements of Title IX, please consult the Title IX regulation.

Last update 9/11/96