Saturday, October 31, 2015

Title IX: Fair play on and off the court

My column, published in the Zion-Benton News on October 29. 

When I mentioned that I was going to write about Title IX a friend commented, “Oh, that’s the ruling that opened up college sports to women.” Well, yes, but that’s only part of the story.

To state it succinctly, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits gender discrimination in education programs and activities in schools and colleges that receive Federal funding for any purpose.   It applies to students and employees, and applicants for admission or employment.  It means that an institution may not “exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently any person on the basis of sex” unless the regulations specifically authorize.” (Title IX Resource Guide, 2015.)

Title IX is not an entitlement program.   Yes, it benefits girls and women – and it also benefits boys and men.  It is gender-neutral, ensuring equality in education for all students. 
1.  It protects all students and all staff, male and female, from sex-based discrimination.
2.  It requires schools to provide equal opportunities for male and female students to participate in athletics. It does not set quotas or demand equal funding.    In the forty years since Title IX, girls’ participation in high school sports has increased tenfold and six times as many women participate in college sports.   Over the same period boys’ and men’s participation and athletics has continued to rise.   Competitive cheering and competitive dance are now classified as sports.
3. It mandates equity in career and technical education programs.   Boys take home ec and girls take shop.         
4. It protects equity in scientific and technical education, including equal access to institutional resources.   Examples include science laboratories, field research, art studios, or music practice rooms.
5. It offers both male and female students protection from sex-based harassment from teachers, school staff, other students, and school visitors.  Claims cannot be dismissed as being trivial or “boys being boys.”   
6. It sets limits on programs that segregate girls and boys.  Gender stereotypes are challenged in textbooks and curriculum resources.
7.  It protects students from being refused enrollment or excluded from school activities because of pregnancy or parenting status.  Programs for student-parents must be comparable to the normal school curriculum and enrollment must be voluntary.
8. It requires schools to adopt and disseminate policies prohibiting sex discrimination and develop procedures to address grievances. Every district must designate a compliance officer.
Winthrop Harbor District 1, Beach Park District 3, Zion District 6, and Zion-Benton Township High School District 126 have compliance officers.
9. It protects students and staff from retaliation for reporting violations.

Title IX has been in area news recently.  A transgender student in High School District 211, Palatine, who plays sports cannot use the locker room. The school provides a private dressing room near the gym. The ACLU has filed suit saying that the she should be treated like any other student, not given “separate but equal” facilities.  The Chicago Tribune editorializes that a simple solution is privacy stalls in the locker rooms, available to any student.

Title IX is not a restricted, narrow path. It opens up the roadway to students, faculty, and staff so that everyone can achieve the best.  We all gain with fair play!

Sources:  “Title IX at 40,” NCWGE, 2012; “Title IX Resource Guide,” U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2015.

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