Closing Statement - Deborah Brake
4/23/98 4:32 PM

This has been a very interesting, if at times heated, discussion. I have
especially appreciated the comments of those of you who have shared your
different perspectives on the effect of single-sex programs on educational

It seems to me that there remains a great deal of confusion over how the
law looks at single-gender education. This is understandable, as many
of these issues are just beginning to be worked out in the courts. A
general principal worth remembering is that if a single-sex program is
designed to remedy a sex-based disadvantage that has limited the
opportunities or achievement of the group that will benefit from the
single-sex program, it should be legally OK under both Title IX and the
Constitution. This actually makes sense -- why segregate by sex and
make a sex-based classification the solution if the problem you're
trying to remedy isn't one that is based on sex? In other words, if
students of one sex face particular challenges becsause of their sex,
and those problems have not been able to be solved in a coed
environment, then the law lets you try a single-sex solution. This
principle can benefit boys as well as girls. For example, although VMI
did not meet this test, since everyone agreed that men were not
disadvantaged because of their sex in military education, other
single-sex programs may. The Mississippi University for Women case
struck down an all-women's nursing school because there was no
indication that women were disadvantaged in nursing schools or in the
field of nursing because of their sex. The case may have come out
differently, however, if it had involved an all-male nursing school,
since men's opportunities had been limited in nursing because of their

We still do not have enough research to know whether minority males may
face particular challenges based on the combination of their sex and
race that could be remedied in single-sex programs. It is possible that
such programs as Detroit's could be justified if there were evidence
that sex was part of the problem and that a single-sex environment could
remedy the problem better than coeducation. One of the flaws in
Detroit's program was that they did a lot of things that didn't depend
on a single-sex environment -- smaller class sizes and more mentors, for
example -- but then deprived minority girls of access to those
benefits. They also had no evidence that minority males were doing
poorly in a way that was related to their sex, or that providing them a
single-sex environment would raise their achievement.

These are not easy issues, and there are no clear cut answers. However,
it is not particularly helpful to turn the issues into a zero-sum game
of boys versus girls. I personally think that more work should be done
like the AAUW research to look at the effect of single-gender education
on educational achievement and gender equity for all.

Deborah Brake

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