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Dialogue continued

Dialogue participants identify challenges to further progress:

  • Lack of knowledge and expertise on Title IX requirements within local or state education agencies and educator preparation programs. The educators who received training and coaching about Title IX in the 70ís and 80ís are retiring.
  • An unwillingness to take sex discrimination, bias, role stereotyping and harassment seriously for both males and females. Sex discrimination is seen as a small and marginal issue outside the core of teaching and learning. Funding for technical assistance services does not exist for most local educators, schools or districts.
  • A lack of concern about growing challenges to Title IX and the principles of gender equity in public education. Title IX opponents have set up a zero-sum and divisive game, asserting that educational progress for women and girls has come at the expense of boys, and the nation must therefore roll back the protections of Title IX.
  • A continued struggle to recognize and honor the diversity within gender (race, ethnicity, disability, and class) and other forms of diversity. Title IX is too often seen as a law to benefit girls (or more specifically female athletes) only.
  • Title IX work today is most often complaint-triggered and reactive, not proactive or preventative. The work is done in an atmosphere of conflict and opposition instead of in a partnership between educators and families.
  • A lack of leadership development resources to ensure that gender equity principles and practices continue to evolve. In the late 1990ís federal funding was eliminated for both the state level equity offices and the gender equity administrator positions. These programs provided ongoing gender equity training and assistance for educators in state and local school systems. Only a few states have maintained any gender equity staff and/or programs in the wake of these cuts.

What About the Future?
Some suggested that the current attention to Title IX and gender equity issues should be viewed as an opportunity. For example, one participant said the growing attention to "how boys are doing" allows advocates to educate the public about what gender equity really means. She said:

Assisting schools and boys to SEE gender and recognize gender-based inequities could be a good thing. Linking how boys and how girls are doing is probably the key, i.e. boys make up a disproportionate segment of the special education population AND girls are under identified for special education services. Boys may be better engaged by providing different types of reading/writing materials AND boys need to better learn to find the value in the so-called "relational" attributes of Language Arts.

In concluding the Dialogue, a number of the panelists expressed their re-dedication to achieving the goals of gender equity. They said they had been inspired and motivated by this engaging conversation. One panelist stressed the need for developing initiatives to produce the next generation of Title IX leaders among teachers, administrators, parents, and especially students. She offered several examples of activities she had heard about in her state:

  • the fourth grade girls and boys who developed a campaign to challenge a sex-stereotypical television ad by a local hospital and then held an assembly on Title IX for students and parents;
  • the pregnant teen who successfully overturned her schoolís decision to forbid her to give the graduation speech at her high school, even though she was class valedictorian;
  • the high school student who surveyed her school system on gender issues and, when athletic facility inequities were identified, lobbied her school board to fund changes;
  • the seventh grader who told a teacher that his sexist classroom practices were not only unfair but illegal under Title IX, and recommended that the teacher attend a gender equity workshop.

Finally, in one of the closing statements for the Dialogue, a panelist ended with the following words: "I want to remind myself and you that Title IX and gender equity have been challenged every day of these 30 years. We have survived court challenges, lack of resources, attacks on us, our beliefs, public education in general, and yet we are still here, still adapting and modifying our strategies, and still making progress."

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