Back to School with Title IXSeptember 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.