47 Vorchheimer v. Sch. Dist. Of Philadelphia, 532 F.2d 880, 881 (3d Cir. 1976). 48 Id. 49 Id. 50 Id . 51 Vorchheimer v. Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 430 U.S. 703 (1977) (per curiam). 52 In 1983, a Pennsylvania state court held that denying girls admission to Central High was a violation of the state constitution’s equal rights amendment and the Four- teenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court therefore ordered that girls be admitted to Central High. See Newberg v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 26 Pa. D. & C.3d 682 (1983). 53 Garrett v. Bd. of Educ. of the Sch. Dist. of Detroit, 775 F. Supp. 1004 (E.D. Mich. 1991).
566 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender [Vol. 33 prohibition against sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funds. 54 While the case clearly had a “chilling” effect on single-sex experimentation, 55 the decision nonetheless left open the possibility that a plan to offer a comparable single-sex opportunity to girls could pass consti- tutional muster. While maintaining its silence on the specific question of K-12 single- sex education, two Supreme Court decisions concerning postsecondary edu- cation have played a significant role in contouring the contemporary legal landscape for primary and secondary schools seeking to segregate students on the basis of sex. In Mississippi v. Hogan , the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a female-only admissions policy at the state university’s nursing school. 56 Writing for the majority, Justice O’Connor warned that single-sex educational programs cannot be instituted to advance “archaic or stereotypic notions” about men and women. 57 Referencing a long history of public policies in the United States premised on assumptions about the natu- ral unfitness of women for work in a wide range of professions (including the law), Justice O’Connor insisted that justifications for sex-based classifi- cations be assessed “through reasoned analysis rather than through the mechanical application of traditional, often inaccurate, assumptions about the proper roles of men and women.” 58 While narrowly tailored “gender- based classification[s]” may be allowed “in limited circumstances,” 59 the majority found that “[r]ather than compensate for discriminatory barriers faced by women, [Mississippi University for Women’s] policy of excluding males from admission to the School of Nursing tends to perpetuate the stere- otyped view of nursing as an exclusively woman’s job.” 60 Declaring the state’s justification for the admissions policy to have fallen short of an “ex- ceedingly persuasive justification,” the Court struck down the admissions policy as unconstitutional. 61 While taking a strong stand against sex-role stereotyping, Mississippi v. Hogan begs the question of how exactly to distinguish stereotypical from legitimate claims about sex differences. In VMI , Virginia sought to defend 54 See id. at 1006 – 10; see also Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (2006). For more information on the publicity surrounding Garrett , see U.S. Judge Blocks Plan for All-Male Public Schools in Detroit , N.Y. T IMES , Aug. 15,
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