Back to School with Title IX

September 23, 2011

As the new school year begins, it’s a good time to brush up on Title IX and what it means for students. Signed in 1972, Title IX (officially known as the Education Amendments of 1972) is the federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. This short provision, which is only one sentence long, has had a dramatic effect on all areas of education, opening many opportunities for women and girls.

Title IX has been credited with remarkable increases in the number of women and girls pursuing athletics and professional careers. In 1971, the year before Title IX’s enactment, 8 percent of high school athletes were girls, but in the 2009–10 academic year, 41 percent of high school athletes — more than 3 million students — were women. In addition to school athletics, Title IX made it possible for women to pursue careers as lawyers, doctors, mechanics, scientists, and professional athletes. Title IX also protects students from sexual harassment and bullying. Over the past year, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, which enforces Title IX regulations, has told schools and colleges that receive federal funding that they are responsible for preventing and stopping student bullying and sexual harassment.

Despite these advances, many challenges remain. Women’s engagement in athletics and participation in science, technology, engineering, and math fields still lag behind men’s, and Title IX enforcement faces obstacles.

AAUW and the Department of Education have repeatedly urged schools to appoint Title IX coordinators to ensure their compliance with the law’s requirements, yet few schools fully empower these coordinators — most positions either go unfilled or lack sufficient resources. In the majority of cases, the burden of ensuring that schools comply with Title IX’s requirements falls squarely on students and parents.

One resource to help students and parents is the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund. LAF has worked for decades to combat sex discrimination in higher education and the workplace. LAF’s initiatives include community and Campus Outreach Programs, a resource library and online advocacy tools, a Legal Resource Referral Network, and various research reports. LAF also offers the Title IX Compliance: Know the Score Program in a Box, which provides resources and detailed plans to help members investigate whether schools in their communities are in compliance with the law. In November, LAF will release a research report on sexual harassment in grades seven through 12 that explores schools’ obligations under Title IX and what administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community groups can do to prevent and stop sexual harassment.

As we move toward Title IX’s 40th birthday next year, AAUW will keep strongly supporting the law and fighting to protect women’s and girls’ right to equal treatment.

Beth Scott By:   |   September 23, 2011


  1. Avatar Sheri Emerick says:

    What Title Nine provides for is “equitble accomodation” in men’s and women’s sports. In other words, because the school district provided uniforms for men’s sports (football, baseball, basketball, track, soccer, etc.) women’s sports should also receive “equitible access” We didn’t expect a $2500 swim suit (the cost of a full football uniform, pads, helmets, socks, shoes AND athletic supporters) we just wanted a $45 swimsuit provided to ALL members of the team, boys included. The district claimed that swim suits were underwear, however, they provided athletic supporters. Rather unequitible.

    And yes, we were lucky enough to provide coaching and swimsuits for 4 years, however, that wasn’t the point. The point of Title Nine is to insure equal access for all students, which the entire team was not receiving.

    Not every family can afford to purchase uniforms and coaching, so basically the district was saying “we will give you free everything, if you play football, but if you are a female swimmer, you’ll have to buy your own.” THAT is where Title Nine comes into play.

    I don’t believe we “abused” the system in any way, and apparently neither did the Regan appointed Federal Judge whom the case went before, as he ruled the school district was indeed in violation of Title Nine.

  2. Avatar Kimberly Olson says:

    Perhaps I am confused. Title IX is this: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”
    —United States Code Section 20, [1]
    To my understanding, nowhere does it say school districts have to purchase uniforms, especially for those who can afford private coaching. I agree Title IX is a great thing but, like so many items set out there to protect and include, shouldn’t be abused.

  3. Avatar Sheri Emerick says:

    Thank you AAUW for keeping Title Nine in the spotlight.

    My daughter was educated in a school district that would not provide swim suits to the aquatics team (boys and girls) because they were deemed underwear. My daughter was the team’s only springboard diver. After my husband took them on in court, and the school district lost the case, the school began providing swimsuits to the team. They did however drop diving as part of the aquatics program the year after she graduated and had won the Texas State Championship. She went on to compete in college winning 7 conference titles, and a National Championship. She is now one of 9 finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, honoring women student athletes.

    We were lucky to be able to provide private coaching and transportation for our daughter in high school. Had this not been the case, she would not have had the career she did. But how many other girls might have been great competitors, or even just had fun, if they could have afforded the costs of the sport?

    It’s a travesty, that that still occurs all around the country, that we still have to take school districts to court under Title IX, just so our daughters (and sons!) don’t have to purchase their own swimsuits! Sadly, this same scenario happens with too many sports in too many school districts.

    Thank goodness for Title Nine! It’s still very relevant after all these years, we just have to have the knowledge and determination to use it to our student’s best advantage.

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