We Must Still Protect Title IX

 
 
 

The Battle of the Sexes

On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby “No-Broad-Can-Beat-Me” Riggs in the battle of the sexes tennis match.

Forty-four years later, on September 8, 2017, Billie Jean King tweeted “Title IX has stood strong for 45 years because it is inclusive, comprehensive & effective. We must keep protecting it.”

 

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments act of 1972 is a federal law that states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”Title IX infographic

Title IX is most often thought of as requiring that school districts, colleges, and universities offer athletic activities for girls. In addition to physical education and athletics, the law applies to course offerings, counseling and counseling materials, financial aid, student health and insurance benefits and services, education programs and activities, and employment. Title IX applies to both public and private educational institutions that receive federal funds, which includes the federal funding received through federal financial aid programs used by their students, which, in turn, makes most educational institutions subject to its authority. It also applies to both female and male students.

 

What Title IX is Not

What Title IX does not specifically address is sexual harassment or violence. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (“USDOE”) issued guidance in the form of a “Dear Colleague Letter” (“DCL”) to address sexual harassment and violence on school campuses. The 2011 DCL focused on sexual harassment as “a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”

The USDOE took the stand that a hostile educational environment created by acts of sexual harassment and violence violates Title IX when it is serious enough to interfere with a student’s ability to learn or participate in educational or extracurricular activities. Furthermore, a single instance of sexual violence is sufficient to create such a hostile educational environment. Keep in mind this applies to both female and male students.

The DCL says that schools may not retaliate against a student that has filed a complaint of sexual harassment or violence, cannot discourage the student from continuing to pursue her or his education, may issue a no-contact order to prohibit the accused student from contacting the complainant, must ensure the complainant does not have to share space with the accused, and, in the case of sexual violence, are prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation over a formal complaint. Above all else, in my opinion, is that school officials must be proactive in ensuring the campus is free of sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Indeed, I agree with Ms. King that Title IX must be protected and while Title IX has been interpreted by the USDOE to include sexual harassment and violence, it does not, in fact, say it.

 

Be Informed

We must now readdress Title IX to put into law what the 2011 DCL laid out as its interpretation and guidance. Putting the language into law would not allow interpretation to exclude it. School officials and the legal system should be required by law to ensure campuses are free of sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence of both female and male students, and they should not be allowed to interpret or diminish the meaning.

For more information about Title IX, read the comprehensive report issued by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education in 2012 or the 2011 DCL previously referenced.

The Best Wishes,
Mary Mackey
TBW President 2016-2018