WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today marks the 48th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that set out to ensure equal educational opportunities regardless of gender. This civil rights law has opened up doors that had long been closed to women and girls, allowing more to participate in athletics programs, earn scholarships, attend college, study in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) and pursue advanced degrees.
Title IX also assures equality in athletics, which has helped increase the number of women who participate in high school sports to an all-time high, from 300,000 nationwide in 1971 to nearly 3.5 million opportunities for girls to compete in 2018-19, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. U.S. women medal-winners in the Olympics routinely break records.
The language of Title IX is crystal clear:
“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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
But as we’ve seen in the decades since, Title IX can still be undermined by politics, prejudice, and discrimination. Today, with President Trump’s backing, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is intent on weakening Title IX protections for LGBTQIA+ students and making it harder for survivors of sexual assault to be safe at school. A new rule that DeVos is pushing would give new rights to the accused, reduce liability for schools, tighten the definition of sexual harassment and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault. A lawsuit has been brought to stop the administration from implementing this dangerous weakening of Title IX.
Multiple studies have confirmed that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 transgender or gender non-conforming students are sexually assaulted on college campuses, and approximately 20 percent of girls have been the victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while in high school.
NOW is committed to strengthening Title IX protections and enforcement, ending the criminalization of trauma, and pushing back against the Trump Administration’s coordinated attacks on this vital civil rights law. Fulfilling the promise of Title IX and ensuring that it remains a strong deterrent to discrimination and harassment underscores the importance of defeating Donald Trump and electing a new feminist majority to the U.S. Senate in November. We need a government that proudly enforces Title IX, and not one that weakens it and, thereby, threatens the safety of all students.