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.