"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."
This is an excerpt from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which were added to the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments of that year. Its main aim is to prevent sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funding, such as higher education institutions, local school districts, museum programs, and libraries. These institutions must provide equal treatment across all areas of work, to both students and employees. Otherwise, they risk losing federal funding for not complying with federal law.
How It Works
For a long time, the law had overlooked the sex-based discrimination that educational institutions and programs were perpetuating. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited "discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin", there were no legal grounds to correct the discriminatory disparities of the educational system (in terms of budget allocation, admissions, employment, and athletic programs). Most of these imbalances mainly affected women, thus, Title IX marked a before and after in Women’s History.
The implementation of Title IX led to strong institutional change. Women in sports, at both the elementary and higher education levels, benefitted from greater access to team sports and resources. Prior to Title IX, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) did not host athletic championships for female teams. Women also failed to receive athletic scholarships for colleges and universities. Team doctors, insurance, and equal access to athletic facilities were lacking for collegiate women’s sports teams. However, Title IX ensured larger amounts of funding were destined for such activities, which not only ensured more safety and support for female athletes, but also increased female participation in sports. The Women’s Sports Foundation estimates that, as of 2016, there was a “545% increase of women playing college sports and a 990% increase of women playing high school sports” thanks to Title IX.
In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that an institution or program would be held accountable for not successfully addressing circumstances of sexual assault, as this also constitutes sex-based discrimination. At all levels of education, women students and employees face extremely high levels of sexual harassment, and institutions are now obliged under Title IX to have established procedures to manage complaints of discrimination and assault. These requirements enhanced the rights of survivors of sexual abuse and ensured their equal access to educational opportunities. In the past, survivors were usually discouraged from returning to their educational centers due to a lack of funding and resources to address their well-being.
Overall, Title IX addresses some of the most pressing sex-discrimination related issues and ensures nondiscrimination across a broad spectrum of activities and institutions. Given that it is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in college, Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors are particularly important for continuing progress in gender equality.
Sex-based discrimination has prevented women from achieving their full potential for many years. The lack of resources catered to their needs as well as the threat of harassment and sexual abuse in every sphere of life also reduced their educational opportunities. Understanding the importance of Title IX is then core to the comprehension of women’s rights and the barriers they face in society. Additionally, Title IX benefits all. In the past, it has been interpreted as also outlawing discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals.
It is of extreme importance to understand the developments of anti-discrimination laws to prevent further damage to these communities in the future and keep advocating for social change.