Cornell Law Review Volume 90 Issue 2

Separate but Equal and Single-Sex Schools

In this Article I will consider whether coordinate public single-sex schools, such as those reviewed in Vorchheimer, should meet the same fate under the Equal Protection clause as the racially segregated schools in Brown.  After suggesting that the fate of coordinate single-sex schools should be seen as intimately tied to whether they disadvantage girls, I consider the constitutionality of public single-sex education when it takes a form that on its face quite overtly advantages girls: girls are allowed to choose between a coed public school and a single-sex one, while boys can only attend a coed public school.  Whether or not coordinate single-sex schools and all-girls schools with no male counterpart can survive equal protection review is a difficult and complex question, and I will not try to provide a definite answer here.  Instead, my principal objective will be to provide a framework for answering that question by separating out various issues central to resolving it.  The validity of public single-sex schools under federal statutory law–in particular, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and its accompanying regulations–is an important and interesting question as well.  In keeping, however, with the focus of this symposium on Brown, a constitutional decision, I will limit my discussion to the question of constitutionality.


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