Known for creating opportunities for women and girls in athletics, Title IX affects all areas of education. As the school year begins, parents need to know that the scope of this important legislation goes well beyond the playing field.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination in education. It covers any educational institution or program that receives federal funds. This includes school districts, colleges and universities, for-profit schools, technical education agencies, libraries and museums. It also protects staff members, including teachers and other employees.
Title IX affects all areas of education: recruitment, admissions and housing; technical education; pregnant, parenting and/or married students; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); sexual harassment and assault; comparable facilities and access to course offerings; financial assistance; student health services and insurance benefits; harassment based on gender identity; and athletics.
Title IX’s work is not done and parents need to be vigilant. Nationally, sexual harassment pervades the lives of students. Nearly half of students in grades 7-12 experienced harassment in the 2010–11 school year (56 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys). Of that number, 87 percent said it had a negative effect.
Schools must appoint at least one employee to coordinate Title IX compliance. Parents and students in any Idaho public school district should know their Title IX coordinator’s name.
More than athletics, Title IX requires recipients of federal education funding to evaluate their current policies and practices, adopt and publish a policy against sex discrimination, and implement grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee discrimination complaints.
Sexual harassment creates an inequitable learning environment and is a violation of Title IX. If a school fails to recognize and address discriminatory harassment based on sex or gender identity, it can be held responsible for violating students’ civil rights. Title IX prohibits gender-based harassment, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on Title IX and sexual violence. Students’ rights are violated when a school does not take sufficient steps to address a hostile environment that allows sexual violence to occur. This emphasis on students’ safety was reiterated by the Obama administration, which in April 2014 issued recommendations for ending sexual assault on college campuses.
Sex segregation persists in career and technical education, with women making up about 90 percent of the students enrolled in courses leading to traditionally female occupations such as cosmetology, child care and health services. Only 39 percent of all full-time professors at colleges and universities are women. Women’s teams receive only 33 percent of recruiting dollars and 36 percent of operating funds. Women receive only 17 percent of computer science and 18 percent of engineering-related technology bachelor’s degrees.
Pregnant and parenting students are often steered toward separate and less rigorous schools. In 2013, OCR clarified the Title IX ban on schools forcing them out.
The Title IX law, enforced by OCR, prohibits retaliation for filing a Title IX complaint or advocating for those making a complaint. On the field, on the campus and in the classroom, Title IX is a game changer. As a parent or student, make sure you know the rules.
Sylvia Chariton is president-elect of American Association of University Women (AAUW) — Boise Area Branch. AAUW advances equality for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.