Title IX: A Brief History
Research Fellow, Education Development Center
"Women now make up the majority of students in America's colleges and universities in addition to making up the majority of recipients of master's degrees. Indeed, the United States has become a world leader in giving women the opportunity to receive a higher education."-From the introduction to Title IX: 25 Years of Progress, A Report of the U.S. Department of Education, June 1997.
"Too many girls and women still confront 'No Trespassing' signs throughout educational institutions. Women remain underrepresented in critical areas such as math and science. Colleges and universities continue to give short shrift to women's athletics, spending the lion's share of money on men's programming. Scoring gaps persist in standardized testing, limiting women's access to educational institutions, financial aid, and careers. Non-traditional job training programs leading to high-skill, high-wage jobs are still hostile places for women, where they confront the most severe forms of harassment. Few women, particularly women of color, have broken the glass ceiling that keeps the top ranks of positions in colleges and universities primarily the preserve of men. . . . We owe it to our daughters to improve our performance on Title IX by removing these obstacles."The modern women's movement achieved a historic victory on June 23, 1972, when Title IX was enacted as part of the Education Amendments. The preamble to Title IX states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance." With this act, the role of women and girls in education and the work force began to change significantly. Title IX ensures legal protection against discrimination for students and employees, which includes protection against sexual harassment. Specifically, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender* in educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance. The act applies to public and private schools**, from kindergarten through graduate schools, and covers admissions, recruitment, educational programs and activities, course offerings and access, counseling, financial aid, employment assistance, facilities and housing, health and insurance benefits and services, scholarships, and athletics. It also protects from discrimination against marital and parental status.1-From the introduction to Report Card on Gender Equity, A Report of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, June 1997.
In June and July 1970, Rep. Edith Green (D-Ohio), who chaired the subcommittee that dealt with higher education, drafted legislation prohibiting sex discrimination in education and held the first congressional hearings on the education and employment of women. The hearings that Rep. Green held were the first legislative step toward the enactment of Title IX. The original version of the bill, which was part of a larger measure on higher education, proposed to amend Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin) to cover employees in educational institutions. The measure also proposed to amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program receiving federal financial assistance) to cover sex discrimination, and to extend the Equal Pay Act to cover executives, administrators, and professionals. When the hearings were finished, Rep. Green asked Sandler to join the committee staff to put together the written record of the hearings. Sandler thus became the first person ever appointed to the staff of a congressional committee to work specifically in the area of women's rights.
The bill was managed in the Senate by Senators Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and George McGovern (D-South Dakota). The House-Senate conference committee took several months to settle differences between the House and Senate education bill. Honoring the requests of African American leaders and their supporters, who feared that the process of amending Title VI could weaken its coverage, Rep. Green proposed a separate and new title, which became the now famous Title IX.
The technical wording of the bill made it difficult to understand at a quick glance and discussion on the Senate floor included whether the bill would require educational institutions to allow women to play football. Not imagining the potential impact of Title IX on athletics, when their concerns about football were allayed, higher education did not lobby for or against the bill. Sandler and the bill's other supporters did not lobby on its behalf either in order to avoid attracting adverse attention. The elementary and secondary education community remained for the most part unaware of it because it was attached to a higher education measure.
The bill also included the amendment to the Equal Pay Act-enforced by the Department of Labor-extending protection against sex discrimination to administrators, professionals, and executives. Although Title IX largely slipped by its potential detractors, it would significantly expand the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor-a fact that was not realized until after passage of the bill. Congress passed the bill on June 8, 1972 and President Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972. Earlier that same year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was amended in a separate action to cover all employees in educational institutions.2
Adjunct Equal Rights Legislation
As a civil rights statute, Title IX is primarily enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which has enforced racial discrimination laws since 1964. Three other pieces of civil rights legislation followed Title IX: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibiting disability discrimination; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities.
In addition, the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) was passed in 1974. The purpose of the law is to make education more equitable for girls and women by providing incentives and guidance to schools and community groups. It was extended in 1978, amended in 1984, and reauthorized in 1988.5 In contrast to Title IX, which provides sanctions for noncompliance with the sex equity legislation, WEEA represents the supportive component: providing funding at all levels of education for programs of national, statewide, or general significance to overcome sex stereotyping and achieve educational equity for girls and women.6 The key priorities in the early years of the grant program were Title IX compliance by educational institutions and educational equity for racial or ethnic minorities and women and girls with disabilities. WEEA funded grants; the National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs (NACWEP); and the WEEA Publishing Center, now the WEEA Equity Resource Center.
Congress established NACWEP to advise the secretary of education on recommendations concerning sex equity legislation and to evaluate actual WEEA-funded programs. Originally a bipartisan body, it published key reports such as The Half Full, Half Empty Glass (1981). By 1982, however, it was dominated by Reagan appointees, and in 1988 it was eliminated by the WEEA Reauthorization Act. For over 20 years, the WEEA Equity Resource Center, which is housed at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), has supported gender equity initiatives through the marketing and development of gender-fair materials and maintenance of an on-line resource. The center has also provided technical assistance to thousands of individuals and has published over 300 titles, thereby creating a knowledge base that continues to guide the field. Its support and leadership have helped to frame the current discourse concerning gender equity. In the last few years, congressional budget cuts have reduced the resources available to WEEA and have eliminated most grants. However, in 1996 and 1997, under the direction of Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, WEEA and the WEEA Equity Resource Center received separate funds enabling them to continue operations.
Legislative support for Title IX is also derived from the 1976 amendments to the Vocational Equity Act of 1963, which require states receiving federal funding for vocational education to develop and carry out activities and programs to eliminate sex bias, stereotyping, and discrimination in vocational education. The amendments also permit the allocation of federal funds to programs for single heads of households, homemakers, part-time workers seeking full-time jobs, and persons seeking jobs in areas nontraditional for their sex.7 Further, under the amendments, many states are required to name state vocational education sex equity coordinators who provide training and produce materials aimed at making vocational education more equitable and less gender segregated. The Carl D. Perkins Act of 1984 allows the coordinator to administer funds for projects to eliminate sex bias and for programs aimed at single parents and programs according to the discretion of the states.8
In the politically conservative 1980s, the U.S. Department of Justice challenged the broad coverage of Title IX, and enforcement weakened within the Office for Civil Rights.9 The Supreme Court ruled in Grove City College v. Bell (1984) that Title IX was program specific, and that, therefore, only those programs and activities receiving direct federal funds needed to comply.10 However, in 1988, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which restored the liability for sanctions to an entire school system or college if it receives federal education funds. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Franklin v. Gwinnet County Public Schools et al. (1992) that institutions could be held liable for individuals in those institutions who participated in discriminatory behavior toward females. In this landmark case, the Supreme Court also ruled that plaintiffs could sue for monetary damages. This ruling increased the willingness of lawyers to take on Title IX suits, as well as issuing a wake-up call to school districts about the possible consequences of noncompliance.
Progress to Date
Making the Grade?
Equal Access and Equal Treatment Versus Equitable Outcomes
A huge difference exists between providing equal access and equal treatment to males and females in education and ensuring equitable outcomes for both genders. Simply providing equal access does not challenge either the many deep-seated social beliefs about females and males and their respective abilities or the widespread practices that perpetuate these stereotypes. Similarly, focusing only on equal treatment may serve to discount the existence of these prejudices by seeking to put the onus for change on the victims, thus serving to legitimize their oppression. A policy of ensuring equitable outcomes, on the other hand, takes into consideration that victims have different experiences and accordingly need diverse, innovative, and appropriate pedagogical approaches. If a young female has been conditioned to believe that mathematics is inappropriate for her, simply placing her in a math classroom with boys will not solve the problem. In fact, it may actually accelerate the process of alienation.
Sameness of opportunity has not resulted in equity for women. Teachers, it has been found, give boys more praise, more criticism, and more remediation and are more apt to accept boys' responses. In addition, they respond more frequently to boys' requests and talk to boys more about ideas and concepts. Further, boys usually receive more encouragement from both teachers and parents. These realities have to be taken into consideration by those who seek equitable outcomes. Sadker and Sadker argue that girls in school are subject to "subtle and insidious gender lessons, micro-inequalities that appear seemingly insignificant when looked at individually but have a powerful cumulative impact."16 The focus should be on not only ensuring equal access for females but also on developing policies, practices, and materials to combat stereotyping, socialization, and other systemic factors that deny equitable outcomes.
The conversation on gender equity must also include multicultural and diverse perspectives. For too long, women in the United States have been considered a homogeneous group that benefits uniformly from the struggle for gender equity. However, often lost in this view are the voices of African American, Asian American, Latina, Native American, poor and other marginalized women, including women with disabilities. In addition, differences in class, culture, and ethnicity cut across and within these groups. Further, special educators too often forget that students with disabilities have a gender and are subject to gender bias, like their non-disabled counterparts. Under Title IX, females of all races and abilities should have access to the same schools and instruction as white middle- and upper-class male students. However, compared to poor females and females of color, white middle-and upper-class females apparently receive the most benefits. Statistics often fail to take into consideration the variables of class, culture, and race that significantly influence access to education and accompanying support. The American Association of University Women's 1992 report, How Schools Shortchange Girls, states that socioeconomic status, more than any other variable, predicts educational outcomes. However, socioeconomic status should not be isolated, as the report " . . . suggests that closer attention should be paid to the combined impact of gender and social class, as well as race, on educational outcomes."19
Gender, race, and class are interrelated in a complex dynamic. Gender is a concept that is culturally constructed in a sociohistorical context. "Similarly, race and class carry with them socially constructed roles, beliefs, and expectations. Students of color and poor students are often assigned lower status in schools, and the cultural, social dynamics of racism and classism play themselves out in the consistent underachievement of these students."20 How Schools Shortchange Girls reports that there are differences in the concentration of women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in certain sectors of the work force-a phenomenon that has as much to do with class as with race and ethnicity. In addition, the report illustrates differences in levels of self-esteem between girls who are different racially, ethnically, and physically but are at similar educational stages, again demonstrating the interrelatedness between these variables in determining different experiences. However, care must be taken not to perpetuate the biases that already exist about women of color and women with disabilities simply by focusing on the stereotypes. The challenge will be to balance acknowledgment of differences with a vision for the common goal of gender equity.
Federal support may be increased as on the anniversary of Title IX President Clinton ordered all heads of executive departments and agencies that provide financial assistance to education programs or activities to consult with the attorney general and "to report . . . within 90 days on measures to ensure effective enforcement of Title IX."21 In addition, he asked the heads of the departments to "take appropriate action against discrimination in education programs or activities conducted by the Federal government." "I believe," the president stated in his address to celebrate the anniversary, "and I surely hope that every American would agree that the national government must hold itself to the same high standards it expects from everyone else-especially when it comes to discrimination in education."22 The recommitment by the president to the enforcement of Title IX may serve to strengthen the support that is needed in the struggle to eradicate gender discrimination and other types of inequalities in education and society.
* I use the biological term sex only when distinguishing from the socially constructed concept of gender. Where the literature has used sex, however, I have used the term in order to keep the language in its context.
** Most private elementary and secondary schools do not receive federal funds although most private postsecondary institutions do.
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