This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a civil rights law passed in 1972 that prohibited sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs that receive Federal Government funding.
Despite forceful pushback, Title IX has expanded and become more protective of vulnerable groups—helping to increase gender parity in many arenas.
We recently spoke with RALIANCE’s resident Title IX expert, Policy Director Terri Poore, about the impact of Title IX and how the law can further be improved.
RALIANCE: Today, many people associate Title IX with athletics, but it has also played an important role in protecting survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Can you tell us more about how that came to be?
Poore: The Department of Education during the Obama administration explicitly laid out how Title IX protects students from sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus but also in the K-12 setting, with the rationale that the issue of sexual assault is sex-based discrimination.
Sexual assault and harassment can happen to anyone, women—including transgender women—and girls are at a greater risk. Their experiences, and the response—or lack of response and lack of accommodations—impacts people’s ability to focus on and stay in school and has a direct impact on their education.
RALIANCE: Why does Title IX matter to this day? What do you tell someone who says we have achieved sex-based gender equality and no longer need it?
Poore: When you look at the most recent census data, women of all races are on average still earning 82 cents for every dollar earned by men—so there’s still the wage gap. If you look at the United States Senate, women make up just a quarter of the Senate. If we had true gender parity, that number would be closer to 50. But specifically, we know sexual violence has impacted the life course of so many young women and that we still see survivors dropping out of school as a result of their experiences of harassment and violence. That really shouldn’t be the case. So, I would say to that person, I do think we’ve made progress around gender equality, but we have important work left to do.
RALIANCE: What are the most significant achievements of Title IX since its passage?
Poore: First, when people think of Title IX, nearly everybody thinks about women’s sports—so that’s an achievement, making sure that schools spend as much on promoting and supporting women’s sports as they do on other sports on campus. The second accomplishment is interpreting Title IX in the context of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. I think that is both an achievement and something we can continue to improve.
RALIANCE This year, the Biden administration proposed changes to Title IX to make it more inclusive. How else can Title IX be improved over the next 50 years?
Poore: The concept of the new rule broadens Title IX to further address issues for two groups—pregnant and parenting students as well as LGBTQ+ students.
Women, girls or people with a female reproductive system could face discrimination on the basis of sex because they’re pregnant and face being pushed out of school. Also, as we have seen in the news, there’s still a lot of controversy around LGBTQIA+ students’ existence and rights—whether that’s in sports or any arena. How successful we can be in explicitly protecting LGBTQIA+ students is going to be really important.
The Biden rule also aims to reinstate schools’ responsibility for incidents involving students that are associated with the school even if it didn’t happen on campus. And another important factor in the rule is requiring schools to apply the same standard of evidence for sexual violence as in other disciplinary proceedings. It shouldn’t be more difficult to prove harassment or assault than plagiarism.
At RALIANCE, we applaud these changes and recognize there is still room for growth. For example, investment in sexual assault and harassment prevention is sorely lacking. From helping students to deconstruct gender roles to comprehensive sex education and strong disciplinary policies, there are a myriad of solutions schools can implement to help prevent sexual violence. It’s critical that changes be implemented to make campus cultures a safe and healthy environment for all students, especially those who are marginalized.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Terri Poore recommended a few additional resources for readers who want to learn more:
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.