July 3, 2012
USDA rescinds guidance on gender separation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture rescinded guidance it issued in May that called for an end to gender separation during the administration of federal child nutrition programs.
The guidance was directed at school breakfast and lunch programs at schools and camps.
Religious schools and camps could apply for an exemption, but no information was given on the process when the guidance was released.
Agudath Israel of America had raised several concerns with the USDA on the process since the guidance was first released.
“We did not know if the requirement would involve onerous administrative procedures or, for example, how it would apply to single gender entities,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for federal affairs and Washington director for Agudath Israel of America, said in a news statement Monday. “More importantly, we did not know if the agency was contemplating adjudicating whether a specific religion’s tenet truly required the separation—an inappropriate action that would surely offend constitutional principles.”
Jewish and other religious schools were never required to apply for such an exemption for the administration of child nutrition programs in the past.
Following the USDA’s withdrawal of the guidance, Cohen praised the department for its decision.
“The USDA is to be commended for understanding the unique problem the guidance presented for religious entities participating in federal food programs and for responding effectively and expeditiously to resolve it,” Cohen said in the statement.