Eliminating Gender Bias

Apr 09, 2015

One huge misconception about Title IX is that it primarily focuses on athletic funding in schools, and gender-fairness in athletics. However, Title IX is much more than that.

Passed in 1972, this federal law states, “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.”

Simply put, Title IX prohibits discrimination, harassment and/or violence on the basis of sex and gender in federally funded educational institutions and activities, from elementary school to colleges and universities. Sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, interference with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and bias against students who are pregnant or parenting all fall under the umbrella term of gender discrimination. So, although gender equality in sports is important, it is not what Title IX is solely about. Furthermore, all genders – not just female students – are protected under this law.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one in four college women experience completed or attempted sexual assault before graduation. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in four men will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the numbers do not stop there. The CDC also reports that 30 percent of female rape victims are between the ages of 11 and 17, and one in five high school girls and one in 10 high school boys report dating violence. These numbers show the importance of ongoing sexual assault education and violence awareness training in schools and universities.

For instance, in Maryville, Mo., then 14-year-old Daisy Coleman was ostracized, harassed and discredited after she came forward with allegations of rape against a male senior high school student, according to U.S. News. The torment continued three years later, even after the backlash damaged her psychologically and emotionally, and ran her out of town to a new high school. The attention surrounding the case resulted in a job loss and a fire, started under mysterious circumstances, that destroyed her home.

Unequipped faculty made matters worse by not allowing Coleman to sit with other students at lunch. She was also banned from prom until the principal was persuaded to allow her to attend.

One lingering issue is that many people lack a clear understanding about what sexual assault is -specifically in an educational setting.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, sexual harassment is harassment that is sexual in nature, unwanted and denies or limits a student’s ability to participate or benefit from a school’s educational program. In as early as elementary and middle school, kids can fall victim to harassment and assault. Equally disturbing is that, much like in college, it often goes unnoticed and/or unreported. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) states that 68 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. So what does Title IX do to protect America’s students?

First, under Title IX, schools must publish a notice of nondiscrimination, according to KnowYourIX.org. All schools must have a Title IX coordinator and a clear grievance procedure for sex discrimination. School employees are required to be trained to address sexual violence and respond to complaints in a prompt manner.

Additionally, the school should have the appropriate standard of evidence for disciplinary hearings and an equitable Title IX complaint process. Neither the school, school employees nor students are allowed to retaliate against an individual filing a Title IX complaint. Finally, the school must address how sex discrimination, sexual violence and sexual harassment creates a hostile environment for others within the school.

Students and concerned third parties have the right to submit Title IX complaints to a school, and schools who fail to appropriately respond can suffer the loss of federal funding, a non- compliance finding, a voluntary resolution agreement, or a lawsuit. The U.S. Department of Education accepts Title IX complaints, which can be reported to OCR@ed.gov. Additionally, Title IX allows victims to bring a private civil suit to seek monetary damages and an injunction to stop discriminatory practices. All of this information and more can be found at KnowYourIX.org, ACLU.org, ED.gov and NWLC.org.

About the Writer

Tempest Wright

Contributing Writer

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