Monday, March 14, 2011

Everything you ever wanted to know about Title IX

"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."
-Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded educational programs in schools. This includes equitable access to all academic programs, activities, athletics, course offerings, admissions, recruitment, and scholarships.

Who does Title IX protect?

The protections of Title IX apply to male and female students, faculty and staff. It protects against sexual harassment based upon sex, gender, gender identity and expression (real and perceived), and sexual orientation (real and perceived). Title IX also protects students in academic and non-academic activities because of pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, and abortion.

What can Title IX do for me?

Students have the right to file a complaint if their rights under Title IX are violated. The school’s response and all policies must be “prompt and equitable.” Title IX prohibits retaliation against those who file complaints. Each federally funded institution (school district) must designate a Title IX Coordinator to oversee compliance and grievance procedures. The contact information of the Title IX Coordinator must be made available to students, staff, and parents. Victims of sexual harassment may recover monetary damages under Title IX if the school shows deliberate indifference in dealing with the discrimination or related retaliation.

Why are we concerned about Title IX?

One major problem with how schools deal with Title IX is that they often conflate the terms bullying and harassment. If the sex/gender based harassment of students is deemed bullying, then parents may believe they are not entitled to Title IX protections. While in reality, under Title IX, parents can sue for monetary damages if their charges of sexual harassment are met with "deliberate indifference" on the part of schools.

Although school districts are responsible for upholding Title IX, some admitted their ignorance of the law and what it covers. Additionally, many districts are not in compliance with the federal mandate that they appoint, train, and make available to the public a Title IX coordinator to oversee compliance with the law, to deal with complaints (including those of sexual harassment), and to oversee reporting procedures.

Furthermore, superintendents (and other administrators) serving primarily in administrative roles are reported to be the Title IX coordinators in many districts. Michigan NOW believes that Title IX coordinators should be in positions of student advocacy for the majority of their job duties, and not in administrative roles in addition to Title IX responsibilities.

What’s the difference between bullying and harassment?

Bullying involves behavior repeated over time upon an individual which intentionally inflicts harm, whereas harassment involves biased behaviors, intentional or not, having negative impact on a target and/or environment (causing a hostile environment) based upon some distinguishing characteristic such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.

What are we doing?

Oakland County NOW is working to make sure that every school district in Michigan is in full compliance with Title IX. We are in the process of sending out a survey to each school district in Michigan requesting information about their Title IX policies which will then help us determine which areas of compliance are most neglected.

What you can do:

We must hold school districts accountable to Title IX. You can help by calling your local school district, and asking for the name of their Title IX coordinator. If your district does not have a Title IX coordinator, ask that they comply with federal regulations.

Some other actions you can take:

1. Investigate whether your school (your child’s school) is equitable in terms of sports scheduling and facilities.
2. If you are experiencing gender based harassment, keep a log of times, dates, and specific experiences.
3. Tell your parents, as well as school personnel what is happening.
4. Find your district’s anti-harassment policy. If it does not enumerate protected categories (such as sex; gender; sexual orientation and gender identity, real and perceived) advocate for the inclusion of protected categories in the policy, as well as guidelines for prohibited behaviors, and an anti-retaliation statement.
5. See the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “Letter to Colleagues” for more information about your rights to be free from harassment in school under Title IX and other anti-discrimination laws:

Where can I get more info about Title IX?

Here and here!

(Title IX info courtesy of Jennifer Martin)

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