What Is Title IX? A Definition Every Student Should Know

In 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the education amendments to guarantee equal opportunity in education for all students from kindergarten to graduate school.

Title IX emphasized that no person should be excluded from educational programs or activities (those that receive federal funding) on the basis of sex. Now, 43 years later, Title IX has a lasting legacy on primary, secondary, and postsecondary education in the U.S. Young women now represent a growing number of students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs; they also have many more opportunities to play sports and enter into career and technical training.

Some only associate Title IX with college-level athletics, but this legislation actually sought to eliminate sex-based discrimination for all students in all educational opportunities. With its passage, girls and women could play sports (they had previously been banned from most school teams), take courses or major in math or sciences, and enroll in vocational programs previously segregated by sex.

No longer could young women be required to take different courses from young men. Title IX, then, is about equality in education for all students. It doesn’t offer any special benefits to girls or women, but rather levels the playing field, providing educational opportunities to all students regardless of gender. The legislation includes language that protects pregnant and parenting students from discrimination, as well as addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Fundamentally, Title IX seeks to protect any person from sex-based discrimination. All students have the right to learn in a healthy environment, free from discrimination, harassment, and violence. The National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education notes that Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools, in employment for school staff as well as students, in STEM programs, and in career and technical education programs. Most importantly, it requires schools to provide male and female students with equal opportunities and to protect students from sex-based harassment from teachers, staff, other students, and school visitors. Title IX, then, is about both equality and protection.

Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault

In the last few years, discussions of Title IX on college campuses have centered around the ways in which schools have handled allegations of harassment, rape, and assault. According to Know Your IX, schools must act to prevent campuses from becoming hostile environments for those who have experienced of discrimination, assault, abuse, and harassment, and these institutions are not allowed to “discourage survivors from continuing their education.” Such individuals have the right to remain on campus, and their schools must have an established procedure for handling their complaints.

Every college should have a Title IX coordinator, who manages complaints, and puts procedures in place for handling investigations in a prompt and efficient manner. Schools are required to make sure that students are able to continue their educations free from harassment, discrimination, and violence.

Many colleges and universities have not lived up to the promise of Title IX. As of April 2015, 106 colleges are under investigation for possibly violating Title IX in how they managed and adjudicated cases of sexual assault on campus. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is heading up these investigations to see whether the schools were in violation and the ways in which the colleges should respond to guarantee not only the educational equality of students, but also their safety. We come along way in the last 43 years, but this record number of investigations suggests we have much further to go.

What You Can Do If You Suspect Your School Has Violated Title IX:

  • Examine the Title IX policies: First, you should become familiar with what Title IX requires that your school comply with. You can read the complete set of regulations on the Department of Labor website, or use this checklist from Know Your IX.

  • Talk to you school’s Title IX coordinator: Every college is required to have a Title IX coordinator. You can talk to her about any concerns you have about how your school is handling a certain issue. If there is no coordinator at your school, then the institution is in breach of Title IX.

  • File a complaint: If you want to report your school for violating Title IX, you (or anyone) can file a complaint against it as long as it is within 180 days of the incident that you are reporting. To learn more about how to file a Title IX complaint, use this guide from Know Your IX.

Use this glossary of terms to know about campus sexual assault to become a more effective college advocate.

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