Title IX Celebrates 50th Anniversary with a Mid-Life Crisis

A half-century has passed since Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Much has changed since that time and more change is on the horizon.

After public hearings were conducted in June 2021, the U.S Department of Education (DOE) began crafting new rules that took public feedback into account as well as two executive orders related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Proposed new rules were submitted in February 2022 to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The Department of Justice (DOJ) must also review proposed changes.

The new rules will most likely be a major overhaul, not only minor adjustments.

Until the new rules are released, we remain unsure of their ramifications. While we cannot predict the future, we can look at the law’s history.

Purpose of Title IX

The law requires that no person be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex under “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX applies to schools, local and state educational agencies, and other institutions. That includes charter schools, colleges, universities, libraries, and museums.

Recipients of federal funds have Title IX obligations in the following areas:

  • Recruitment
  • Admissions
  • Counseling
  • Financial Assistance
  • Athletics
  • Sex-based Harassment
  • Employment

The Evolution of Title IX

Policymakers and activists have battled over the law’s reach since the legislation passed.

Title IX had one of its first tests in a 1983 case brought by a private, coeducational liberal arts school. Grove City College argued that it was not subject to Title IX because the school did not accept state or federal funding. However, some of the institution’s students received grants through a DOE program. In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that the student grants did trigger the need for the school to comply with Title IX. The ruling limited compliance requirements to the school’s financial aid program since that is where the federal money was used.

In response to the Supreme Court, Congress passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 and clarified Title IX applies to all operations of an institution whenever any program receives federal funds. While President Ronald Reagan vetoed the legislation, Congress overrode his veto. The act became law.

A Change of Focus

The debate about Title IX initially focused primarily on equal opportunities for males and females in intercollegiate sports (though athletics was not specifically identified in the law). The focus switched to sexual harassment in 2011 when the Obama administration announced detailed sexual-harassment rules.

In 2016, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) requiring schools to provide access to sex-segregated facilities on the bases of students’ gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The Republican platform in 2016 devoted a section to Title IX. The Trump administration quickly rescinded the DCL and soon afterward did the same for the sexual harassment guidelines. The DOE advanced new regulations. Title IX amendments became effective in 2020.

The Biden administration is expected to reverse those 2020 guidelines and create more protections for LBGTQ+ students, faculty, and staff.

Title IX Plays a Critical Role in Equal Access

Despite the controversies surrounding Title IX, the law has undoubtedly had a positive impact in some areas.

Statistics reveal the impacts of Title IX:

  • Female athletic participation grew from 294,015 in 1972 to 3.4 million in 2018-2019.
  • Only 7% of athletes were girls in 1972 compared to 43% in 2018-2019.
  • There are more than 215,000 female college athletes in 2020-21, a tremendous increase from 30,000 in 1972.
  • Women athletes on college teams have increased from 15% (1972) to 44% (2020-21).
  • In 1972, women earned 7% of law degrees and 9% of medical degrees. Today they earn nearly half of all medical and law degrees.
  • Less than one in five professors were women in 1970 compared to about 40% of full-time college faculty and 50% of part-time faculty (2006).

In addition to these statistical gains, pregnancy is no longer grounds for a school to kick out a student. Nor can pregnant teachers be penalized. All sexes can take whatever classes they like, not just ones designated for their gender.

Agile Title IX Defense for Students, Faculty, and Staff

Title IX will continue to unfold, change, and develop. At Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC, we focus our attention on all things Title IX. We evaluate how regulations, guidelines, and policies impact our clients. We craft our defense strategies to protect their due process and best illustrate their side.

A Title IX investigation can derail your educational plans or your career track. If you are a target in an inquiry, schedule a consultation by completing our online form or calling (737) 200-2332. We serve clients from California to New York.