by Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council | CNN
On the 38th anniversary of Title IX, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan applauded the landmark legislation that prohibits institutions receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex.
“As a result of Title IX, schools, colleges and universities have made great strides in providing equal access in their programs and services, especially in college sports,” Secretary Duncan said. “For example, in 1972, less than 30,000 female students participated in sports and recreational programs at NCAA member institutions. Thanks largely to Title IX, that number has increased six-fold since then–and at the high school level, the number of girls participating in athletics has increased ten-fold since 1972.”
Despite significant progress in providing equal athletic opportunities, Secretary Duncan stressed the need for vigilance to ensure that students in schools and colleges are protected from discrimination on the basis of their sex on the wide array of issues covered by Title IX. “Our Office for Civil Rights will continue to vigorously enforce Title IX and work to ensure equality for all,” Secretary Duncan said. “Compliance challenges with Title IX remain–and we will not rest until they have been addressed.”
In addition to reaffirming the importance of protecting access to equal athletic opportunities, Secretary Duncan stressed his commitment to ensuring equal access in traditionally under-represented STEM fields and to safe learning environments free from violence and assault. In the upcoming year, OCR will develop policy guidance in key Title IX areas covering sexual harassment and violence, pregnancy, and STEM.
“It’s so important that we get this right,” Secretary Duncan said, “because Title IX has provided large economic benefits that stretch far beyond the playing field.” One rigorous study by Wharton professor Betsey Stevenson found that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in employment among women in the 25 to 34 year-old group was attributable to Title IX. Since March, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has initiated two compliance reviews to address issues involving sexual assault and violence in high school and college. It has also initiated two compliance reviews examining the athletic programs of a high school and college to ensure that girls and women are receiving equitable athletic opportunities.
In upcoming months, OCR will initiate five additional compliance reviews–including one that will review STEM programs at the secondary level. Access to STEM is an important priority not just within the Office for Civil Rights–but for the Department as a whole. For example, the only competitive priority in the Race to the Top program awards points to states that create high-quality plans for rigorous STEM courses, work with community partners capable of supporting high-quality STEM instruction, and prepare more students for advanced study and careers in STEM–including addressing barriers to STEM careers for underrepresented groups, such as women and girls.
In April, OCR issued guidance strengthening Title IX’s application to athletics. The new policy made clear that OCR will look at a variety of factors in determining whether a school or university is adequately assessing the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. The prior policy had permitted a school or university to rely on a single survey in order to assess interests and abilities. At the time, Secretary Duncan said that “Title IX is one of the great civil rights success stories in education.”
For further information about Title IX and OCR, please visit, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/publications.html#TitleIX-Docs.
Court rejects claim by anti-gay groups that disclosure laws violate the First Amendment
Today, in an 8-1 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the United States Supreme Court decisively rejected a First Amendment challenge to a Washington statute requiring public disclosure of the names of individuals who sign petitions to place referendums or initiatives on state ballots. The case arose when anti-gay groups sued to block disclosure of the names of individuals who signed a petition supporting an ultimately unsuccessful referendum to block Washington’s domestic partnership law. In Doe v. Reed, the Court held:
“Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures. Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot. In light of the foregoing, we reject plaintiffs’ argument and conclude that public disclosure of referendum petitions in general is substantially related to the important interest of preserving the integrity of the electoral process.”
On April 1, 2010, three of the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legal organizations, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and Lambda Legal—together with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force—joined Washington Families Standing Together and the State of Washington in filing an amicus brief defending open government laws requiring public disclosure of the names of voters who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives. The brief refuted the false claims presented to the Supreme Court in this and other cases that individuals who support anti-gay initiatives have been subjected to “systematic intimidation” by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
A statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter:
“Today’s decision is a serious defeat for groups who seek to abuse the democratic process to strip rights from vulnerable minorities, and who now wish to do so in secrecy, without even the minimal accountability imposed by laws designed to prevent fraud and abuse. This is one of a series of cases in which anti-gay groups are resisting compliance with open government laws. Thankfully, the Court recognized that the arguments presented by the anti-gay groups in this case had no merit, and that states must be permitted to protect the integrity of the political process.”