Guidance Issued on How Schools Can Partner with Outside Organizations that Provide Single-Sex Programs under Title IX

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Guidance Issued on How Schools Can Partner with Outside Organizations that Provide Single-Sex Programs under Title IX

December 15, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights today released guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter detailing schools' responsibilities under Title IX when partnering with certain outside organizations that provide single-sex programs to a school district's students. The letter explains 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 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 to provide equitable opportunities for students regardless of their sex, including, where the law allows it, while working with organizations that serve students of only one sex."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The office is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. For more about the office, click here.

More information about Title IX and other OCR guidance documents on Title IX issues can be found here.