Title IX--what you can do

Linda Purrington (lpurring@earthlink.net)
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 09:45:33 -0700

Yes, girls' groups are nice; it would also be nice to have boys' groups
to deal with the kind of behavior the girls are protesting. But such
groups, of course, would be harder to deal with, and might arouse much
more resistance-- be much less comfortable. Please step back and look
at the whole scene, which may include parents who are trying to advocate
Title IX compliance, as well as resistant educators. This was certainly
the case in Sonoma County, which in 1989 was already very publicly under
OCR reprimand for ignoring a year's worth of severe (gangs of 30 boys,
in public) sexual harassment. Ten years later, it has been through 6
more major lawsuits and OCR investigations, and the posted Title IX regs
are in 8-point type. Any less visible, and they'd have to be upside
down. Parents--especially mothers, who are more often responsible for
the school-home liaison, who are the ones most likely to speak up for
their daughters' rights, and who labor under the prevailing prejudices
against women in general and mothers in particular--are less malleable
and more observant than children.
Some of you are educators for whom I have already developed real
respect from seeing what you have written; and I know there are educators
everywhere who deserve this respect. I am appealing to educators to look
beyond the job you have, to see in the often furious, frequently
culturally or ethnicly different from you, sometimes uneducated,
occasionally irascible, etc. mother before you that person who is most
strongly on the side of equal rights for girls in this country, and to
give her your help. (Parents are also legally responsible for the welfare
of daughters and sons.) You have listservs such as this,and professional
groups, and unions and informal associations, and education, and
journals--and the U.S. Department of Education. She has, usually, very
much less of these aids, and often has fewer financial aids as well,
because if she had more, she'd get out of the situation more easily. And
she has a hostage in the school, whom she loves,and it hurts her to see
this child unhappy or disadvantaged.
Here are some things you can do to help: make sure you do not step back
from such a mother, isolating her. Stand beside her publicly and make
sure she is supported in social contexts. Provide, at the very least,
information. A minimal gesture of support is to provide the information
that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is available; what it
offers; and what agencies might be of help (and what they offer). In
doing this you are (1) being human, and (2) offering what the law says.
(If you can't support the federal law, perhaps you should not be
teaching or administering education.)
I know that for some of you this will seem to, and actually can
jeopardize your jobs. I know very well how the political structure of a
community can block and isolate enforcement of the federal law. I know,
for example, that a mother can ask help from the very people she might
most think would support her, and not get it, because those people are
married to others who give meaning to the term old-boys networks.
Certainly this county's decade of anti-Title IX activity does not bear
close examination. But there are always some of you who dare to slip
that mother a copy of the regs, or the address of the OCR, or who come
to stand beside her at a school board meeting and tell her you are sorry
for what she and her daughter have had to go through--You are an honor
to your profession, and thank you. Human support and information go a
long way toward building democracy and civil rights.
Linda Purrington
Title IX Advocates

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