Dear Dawg:  Life is not simple anymore, is it, Dawg?  Of all the ridiculous complaints I have ever had to deal with, I think this one tops them all.  We have a professional busybody in our district who now insists that we are out of compliance with federal law because we separate the boys and the girls in the cafeteria.  You know, we just think it works better this way, and we’ve been doing it for close to a million years.  We don’t know of anyone who has had to undergo extensive therapy later in life because of the trauma.  We are all aware of Title IX and I can assure you that we have a world class softball facility.  But carrying this political correctness into the school cafeteria is a bit much. Will you tell me what law I can cite to tell Ms. Busybody to bother someone else?  MIFFED.

DEAR MIFFED:  Nope. Can’t do it.  Ms. Busybody has a point.  See the Guidance issued by the Department of Agriculture:

The Guidance, issued very recently (March 20, 2015) tells us that “school food authorities” that participate in the Child Nutrition Programs “are not permitted to separate children on any protected basis during the service of Program meals or snacks.”  The Guidance does not tell us what “separate” means. Obviously, if you were to allow one gender to have lunch in a nice air conditioned cafeteria while the other gender suffered in an overheated gymnasium that would be a kind of “separation” that would not be OK. If they are all in the same cafeteria, but in separate Boys and Girls tables, we are not sure if that would be OK.  But probably the humorless bureaucrats at the Department of Agriculture would find fault with that arrangement. After all, the key here is “protected” categories—race, religion, sex.  So the Department would probably look at it this way: If it would not be OK to separate kids by race, then it is not OK to classify and separate them by gender.

We cannot imagine the Lunchroom Nazi instructing the Hispanic kids to sit on one side of the cafeteria while the others sit elsewhere.  We instinctively know that that would be wrong.  Or how about this:  “All you straight kids sit over here; the gays are on that side of the cafeteria.”  No—for many reasons, we know we would not want someone to do it that way. How about: “Christians over here; Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists of all stripes, Wiccans and members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster over here.”  Nope. That would not be a good idea either.

Classifying and separating kids by gender offends most people less than any of these examples, and probably offends many people not in the least.  But in the cold hearted eyes of the Department of Agriculture, it’s all the same thing.

We once bumped into a short book offering 50 ways to divide kids into two groups without ever using the words “boys and girls.”  So if you want to divide the kids into two groups, put your creativity to work.