Title IX

The Law

Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments is most known for increasing women’s participation in sports, but its primary gain was to increase all public-funded educational opportunities for girls and women. It prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment against girls and boys, women and men, students and employees, at all levels of education and in any education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The major gain of Title IX was to open the doors of higher education to women. Prior to Title IX, many colleges, graduate school programs and professional schools had quotas drastically limiting the number of women they admitted, and there were few scholarship opportunities for women. Much has changed, but despite progress, many inequities remain. Today women earn the majority of college degrees but are still underrepresented in many of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Because of a 2006 Bush administration regulation, there are increasing efforts to segregate girls and boys in public K-12 schools and academic classrooms, without adequate regard to educational equity for boys and girls, and despite a lack of evidence that it has a positive impact on learning.

The Challenges

Victory: Bush Era Regulations Repealed

The Obama Administration has overturned some of the Bush era efforts to weaken Title IX and the educational equality it guarantees, particularly rescinding the regulations that allowed schools to fulfill their obligation for equal athletic facilities through an email survey to female students only, treating any failure to reply as a lack of interest in sports.

Sex Segregation

In 2006, the George W. Bush Administration issued changes to the Title IX Regulations that made it easier to have sex-segregated public K-12 schools and classes. Segregation is no more effective in increasing gender equality and other desirable educational outcomes than equally well-resourced gender equitable coeducation, and is often harmful because it can increase sex-stereotyping and discrimination against girls and women, boys and men. Feminist Majority and our allies in the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education have urged the Obama administration to rescind these rules which facilitate sex discrimination.

Discrimination Against LGBT Students

Feminist Majority supports the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students with important federal protections against discrimination and harassment, much as Title IX does for sex discrimination and sexual harassment in education. SNDA would add important protections based on the students’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, SNDA would help protect individuals who associate with LGBT students and students who have LGBT parents and friends. It also has important prohibitions against retaliation.

Pregnant and Parenting Students

A recent report from the National Women’s Law Center shows that the vast majority of states are failing to provide pregnant students and teen parents with equal educational opportunities. Under Title IX, pregnant and parenting students are entitled to equal access to regular schools and activities, and any segregated programs or classes must be completely voluntary, but this is not the norm in most states.

Will the Courts Uphold Educational Equity?

Feminist Majority opposed the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts, who prior to his selection, had a record of narrowly construing Title IX and other civil rights protections. For example, Roberts argued that Title IX should only apply to specific programs receiving federal aid, not entire universities. This argument was used by the Reagan Administration in Grove City v. Bell, a 1984 US Supreme Court decision that gutted Title IX. Feminist Majority was a leader in the fight to reinstate full coverage of Title IX with the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987. In addition, as a private lawyer in 2001, Roberts argued against Title IX again in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Smith case, where he won the decision that NCAA was not covered by Title IX. Prior to that, when Roberts was Deputy Solicitor General in the first Bush Administration, he filed a “friend of the court” brief arguing that a student who was sexually harassed by her coach and teacher shouldn’t be allowed to sue.

Action

Feminist Majority is an active member of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) and co-chairs the Single-sex Task Force. FM and NCWGE are urging the Obama administration to repeal the 2006 Bush Education Department regulations that make it easier for public school districts to segregate girls and boys. There is no credible evidence that sex-segregated public education aids students or produces better outcomes than co-ed education. What’s more, there is evidence that it promotes sex stereotyping to the detriment of both girls and boys, and it increases the cost of public education. Feminist Majority urges Congress to pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students with important federal protections against discrimination and harassment. Feminist Majority Supports passage of the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (PPSAE), which provides a framework and to ensure that pregnant and parenting students have equal access to educational opportunities.