Title IX was the first comprehensive civil rights federal law passed that prohibits gender discrimination in education. An Oregon representative, Edith Green, received the credit for introducing the first bill in Congress that eventually became Title IX. This federal statute was an enormous victory for women, eliminating separate admission criteria and quotas for women.
Those of us attending school when the law was passed in 1972 remember this law as finally providing athletic opportunities for young women. Title IX did open the doors for many young women to participate in athletics, but Title IX is much more than a position on the athletic field. It is a fairness policy.
It covers not only women and girls, but also men and boys and staff in all educational institutes and programs that receive federal funding. There are exemptions for private undergraduate colleges, sports involving bodily contact and religious schools if the law would violate their religious tenets.
All schools covered by Title IX are required to evaluate current policies, adopt and publish guidelines against sex discrimination and provide a grievance protocol. Each school is required to have a Title IX coordinator. If a school knows of a sexual harassment incident or sexual assault or should know of one, each incident must receive a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation by the school.
If a school fails to adequately respond, a complaint can be filed with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. Both sexual harassment and sexual violence are considered sexual discrimination under the law. The law also applies to recruitment, admissions, housing and financial assistance.
The law has required a social revolution. In the 46 years since passage of this statute, women and girls have made significant strides in education. Nonetheless, many inequities and issues still exist. Anyone can be subjected to sexual harassment, but college women are disproportionately affected. This impinges on their safety, well-being. and ability to fully participate in college life and complete their studies.
Twenty percent of women experience sexual assault on campus. In addition, one half of all students in grades 7-12 experience sexual harassment.
Vigilance is required to enforce the law. Title IX coordinators at each school are the key to addressing gender inequities. They must have independence, training, and resources to accurately and effectively execute their responsibilities.
For most schools across Oregon, this responsibility is generally given to a teacher who already carries a full schedule of teaching and counseling. Oregon is woefully negligent in supporting Title IX. There is currently only a one quarter-time state employee to monitor and assist all the schools across the state in compliance.
AAUW’s (American Association of University Women) mission is to change the environment for women and girls on campuses and the workplace and break through barriers so all women have a fair chance. AAUW strongly supports vigorous enforcement of Title IX as well as all civil rights laws.
In keeping with this mission, AAUW of Oregon is prioritizing an understanding of and compliance with Title IX in all our schools. We are speaking with our representatives across the state and asking them to adequately fund the state compliance employee so she/he can do the job required by law. We also are requesting funding to train school Title IX coordinators across the state.
These steps would help provide a safer, fairer environment for all of Oregon’s students.
Gretchen King is co-president of AAUW Ashland.