The law specifically states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Not only does it guarantee rights for females but also for males and gender non-conforming individuals.
Much of the time, this law is evoked in reference to females participating in school athletics. However, several landmark Title IX cases do not involve either sports or females. In 1982, in North Haven Board of Ed v. Bell, a teacher was not rehired after a pregnancy leave. The school refused to submit its hiring and tenure practices, feeling that the government was encroaching on its policies, and therefore lost the case. In 1992, in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, a student filed an action, claiming that she had been habitually harassed by a teacher. In exchange for dropping the charges, the teacher resigned, and the investigation was closed. In 2005, in Jackson v. Board of Education, Roderick Jackson, a teacher and high school basketball coach, successfully filed an action arguing that his firing was retaliation against his complaint that the girls’ basketball team was receiving inferior treatment.
Some might think focusing on upholding Title IX law has, over time, become less significant, particularly as the rights of women have increased. However, there is still reason for concern, perhaps especially when it comes to women.
Biased attitudes against women remain pervasive. According to The National Women’s Law Center’s research on “Equal Pay and the Wage Gap,” women in the U.S. “who work full time, year round are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger.”
Additionally, in a June 2015 article that appeared on Breitbart, an alt-right conservative publication, author Milo Yiannopoulos argues that women have no place in studying or working in STEM (science / technology / engineering / math) disciplines involving because they often “drop out,” he says, causing “men with the same qualifications are routinely passed over in favour of girls, at a ratio of 2:1, because employers of every stripe are so desperate to trumpet their diversity credentials.” In “Here’s Why There Ought To Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths,” he advocates placing a five to ten percent cap on women involved in STEM positions.
Even more recently, the confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos raises concern about the future of upholding Title IX. In 2011, Title IX was expanded to include sexual violence. In a letter issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in April 2011, the “sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students' right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime."
DeVos has, in the past offered donations to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, an organization known for assisting accusers of campus sexual assault, as opposed to the survivors of those assaults. During her Senate confirmation, DeVos was asked two different times for a definitive answer on whether she would uphold the 2011 Title IX guidance, and finally she responded: “It would be premature for me to do that today,” according to staff reporter Nick Anderson in The Washington Post.
Title IX investigations involving harassment at colleges also remain pervasive, according to a June 2016 Huffington Post report. At that point, the backlog of Title IX investigations had reached 300. The cases, which do not deal specifically with assault, receive no publicity because they are not included on the list disseminated by the Department of Education among reporters. Schools are also looking to protect reputations and avoid driving away potential students. Too often the cases lack the necessary investigators because the money to pursue them is not available.
Ultimately, however, Title IX is a valuable piece of legislation for which every citizen should fight to protect, no matter our gender or affiliation with athletics (or lack of). It may protect us personally, along with our daughters, wives, sisters—and, yes, our sons, husbands, and brothers, too—from gender-based discrimination or harassment in the educational arena.
(Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and UT Martin and has served on the board of directors at Corinth Theatre-Arts. She enjoys being a downtown Corinth resident.)