Making Title IX History at the Office for Civil Rights

December 12, 2016

Woman raising her hand in a classroom.

As we approach the 45th anniversary of Title IX in June 2017, AAUW is assessing the recent efforts of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and evaluating the tremendous positive effect it’s had in the past eight years with enforcing this longstanding civil rights law.

“For decades students and advocates have called on OCR to enforce long-standing Title IX statute, regulations, and Supreme Court case law concerning sexual harassment and violence, protections for pregnant and parenting students, equity in career and technical education, athletics, transgender students, and more,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s vice president of government relations. “OCR’s recent report documents what students and advocates already know: Under the Obama administration and Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon’s leadership, this OCR steadily increased technical assistance and enforcement and provided critical guidance to schools, which led to better outcomes and safer climates for students at every level nationwide.”

OCR plays a critical role in promoting and ensuring equity and fairness in educational settings, as well as addressing violations of students’ civil rights that can seriously undermine a student’s access to an education. According to OCR’s FY 2016 annual report, the agency was hard at work providing enforcement and tools to help stop sex discrimination in education. It resolved 1,346 Title IX complaints that ranged from school’s handling of athletics to sexual harassment and more. That’s one and a half (almost two) cases an hour for the entire year. OCR provided technical assistance to 110 events on Title IX-related issues at schools and communities nationwide. OCR also issued additional guidance documents or packages that helped schools address gender discrimination in education. OCR has provided vigorous legal defense of these improvements to gender equity in schools and on college campuses across the country and at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This generation of women, girls, LGBTQ, students with disabilities, students of color, and survivors of campus sexual violence will reap the benefit of greater understanding, application, and enforcement of Title IX, which has positively affected academic results and resulted in safer environments for all students,” said Maatz. “Students demanded this change, schools asked for additional clarity, and OCR answered the call by ensuring that schools and colleges implemented many of these changes. It’s a new day, and we will never go back.”

This OCR also prioritized data transparency so that anyone can see how their school or college is meeting key gender equity indicators such as disaggregated data on sports participation, the number of complaints of sexual harassment and bullying, incidents of sexual violence, single sex classrooms, and more. For the first time ever, OCR published the name and contact information for Title IX coordinators in more than 17,000 schools on its website. Such information supports community collaboration in a way that has made equity and fairness in education a priority like never before.

AAUW commends the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for its focus on and dedication to upholding the rights of students in education.

“We’ve had this perfect storm around campus sexual assault and other Title IX issues for the last eight years,” said Maatz. “This was a grassroots movement started by student activists who found a strong ally in AAUW and in the recent leadership at OCR. Although we will see changes at OCR, the student movement will continue, no matter who’s president or who’s in control of Congress. AAUW expects OCR’s robust Title IX enforcement activities to continue because every student deserves an equal opportunity to learn. That must remain a priority regardless of who occupies the White House.”

 


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