Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Throughout the United States, school districts are struggling to educate their students in the face of drug problems, violence, and deteriorated home situations that permeate the lives of large numbers of today's teenagers. Many parents likewise face a daunting battle in helping their children attain an education that will enable those children to move beyond what their parents achieved financially. Additionally, recent economic downturns mean states have even less money to spend on education, forcing the quality of education in some already inadequate schools to fall further. Meanwhile, studies show that American children have fallen behind many of their foreign counterparts in academic evaluations.

In light of these issues, many parents and schools are exploring alternative methods of educating students. Perhaps the best-known initiative is the school voucher movement in Cleveland, which the Supreme Court recently upheld. Charter schools, too, are becoming more popular with parents dissatisfied with their children's public school educations. Additionally, parents are becoming more likely to teach their children at home. Legislators and others interested in traditional public schools cite smaller class sizes and higher teacher salaries as ways of promoting achievement.

One recently revived possibility for improving secondary education is the creation of single-sex classes and schools. Proponents argue that single-sex education decreases classroom discrimination, improves educational experiences for both boys and girls, and gives parents more choices from which to select the system of education that works best for their children. Proponents also believe that separating students by sex could increase the options available to poor and minority children, whose parents may not otherwise be able to afford the single-sex education traditionally offered only in private schools.

Opponents contend that single-sex education presents the same legal issue as did Brown v. Board of Education: state-endorsed segregation of students. Segregation by gender, in opponents' eyes, threatens to erase the gains women have made over the past century.