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Title IX turns 50: What is Title IX and what impact has it had?

Title IX turns 50 on Thursday, June 23.

Created in the early 1970s, the law laid down the basis of gender equity and fair treatment in the educational realm, including opportunities in both the classroom and on the playing field. TKN reporter harry explains in our next report below:

The Title IX law goes beyond gender equality in sports

Title IX is not just about sports; it is a prohibition against sex-based discrimination in education. It addresses discrimination against pregnant and parenting students and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. It also addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Title IX does not apply to female students only

Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression. All female, male, and gender non-conforming individuals are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence.

How Title IX Laws have affected higher education:

  1. Colleges must be proactive in ensuring that the campus is free of sex discrimination. You are protected under Title IX even if you do not experience sex discrimination directly. Schools must take immediate steps to address any sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence on campus to prevent it from affecting students further. If a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination, harassment or violence that is creating a “hostile environment” for any student, it must act to eliminate it, to remedy the harm caused and to prevent its recurrence. Schools may not discourage survivors from continuing their education, such as telling them to “take time off” or forcing them to quit a team, club or class. You have the right to remain on campus and have every educational program and opportunity available to you.
  2. Colleges must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Every school must have a Title IX Coordinator who manages complaints. The Coordinator’s contact information should be publicly accessible on the school’s website. If you decide to file a complaint, your school must promptly investigate it regardless of whether you report to the police (though a police investigation may very briefly delay the school’s investigation if law enforcement is gathering evidence). A school may not wait for the conclusion of a criminal proceeding and should conclude its own investigation within a semester’s time (the 2011 Office for Civil Rights Title IX guidance proposes 60 days as an appropriate time-frame). The school should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine the outcome of a complaint, meaning discipline should result if it is more likely than not that discrimination, harassment and/or violence occurred. The final decision should be provided to you and the accused in writing. Both of you have the right to appeal the decision.
  3. Colleges must take immediate action to ensure a victim can continue their education free of ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Along with issuing a no contact directive to the accused, a school must ensure that any reasonable changes to your housing, class or sports schedule, campus job, or extracurricular activity and clubs are made to ensure you can continue your education free from ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. These arrangements can occur BEFORE a formal complaint, investigation, hearing, or final decision is made regarding your complaint. It also can CONTINUE after the entire process since you have a right to an education free of sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence. Additionally, these accommodations should not over-burden complainant-victims or limit your educational opportunities; instead, schools can require the accused to likewise change some school activities or classes to ensure there is not ongoing hostile educational environment.
  4. Colleges may not retaliate against someone filing a complaint and must keep a victim safe from other retaliatory harassment or behavior. Schools must address complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence. As part of this obligation they can issue a no contact directive or make other accommodations to ensure the accused or a third party does not retaliate for any complaint. Additionally, the school may not take adverse action against the complainant-victim for their complaint. Any retaliation can and should be reported in a formal Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education since it is your right to be free from a hostile educational environment.
  5. Colleges can issue a no contact directive under Title IX to prevent the accused student from approaching or interacting with the victim. When necessary for student safety, schools can issue a no contact directive preventing an accused student from directly or indirectly contacting or interacting with you. Campus security or police can and should enforce such directives. This is not a court-issued restraining order, but a school should provide you with information on how to obtain such an order and facilitate that process if you choose to pursue it.
  6. In cases of sexual violence, colleges are prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation (rather than a formal hearing) of the complaint. The 2011 Title IX Guidance clearly prohibits schools from allowing mediation between an accused student and a complainant-victim in sexual violence cases. However, they may still offer such an alternative process for other types of complaints, such as sexual harassment. Realize it is your choice and you can and should seek a disciplinary hearing if you desire such a formal process. Schools are discouraged from allowing the accused to question you during a hearing.
  7. Colleges should not make victims pay the costs of certain accommodations that may be required in order for the victim to continue their education after experiencing violence. If you need counseling, tutoring, housing resources, or other remedies in order to continue your education, these resources will be provided at no cost to you.

How is Title IX enforced?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is tasked with enforcing Title IX and making sure schools are in compliance with the law. The OCR evaluates and investigates the complaints it receives that allege sex discrimination. It also provides such instituitions guidelines into how to better comply.

The OCR created the three-prong test in 1979 to determine if and how a school is in compliance. A school needs to show at least one of the prongs is true when proving compliance. These prongs include:

1. Are participation opportunities for men and women in proportion to their respective enrollments?

2. Does the institution have a history and continuing practice of creating programs and participation opportunities in response to developing interests of a/the underrepresented sex?

3. Can the institution show it is fully and effectively accommodating the interests of a/the underrepresented sex?

 The future of Title IX 

The Department of Education proposed new changes to Title IX on Thursday that would prohibit schools, colleges and universities from discriminating against transgender students.

‘I am committed to protecting this progress and working to achieve full equality, inclusion, and dignity for women and girls, LGBTQI+ Americans, all students, and all Americans,” President Biden said in a statement Thursday.

Why it matters: The amendments would mark a major extension of protections provided by the landmark anti-discrimination legislation, which turned 50 years old on Thursday.

  • The changes would also undo and replace rules issued during the Trump administration by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that govern how schools investigate and resolve claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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