Forty years ago, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to ensure equal opportunity in education for all students, from kindergarten through postgraduate school, regardless of sex. This landmark legislation 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 educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
-20 U.S.C. 1681
The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education summarized the current status of Title IX: Girls and women have made great strides in education since the passage of Title IX. The days when girls were told that they couldn’t take shop or advanced math are, for the most part, gone. Females make up a growing proportion of students in many math, science, and technology-related fields.
Given greater opportunities to participate in athletics, they are now doing so in record numbers. They have also made gains in career and technical education at the high school and community college levels. Time and time again, girls and women have proved that they have the interest and aptitude to succeed in areas once considered the exclusive purview of males.
Despite tremendous progress, however, challenges to equality in education still exist. Women’s advancement in some areas, including computer science and engineering, has stagnated and even declined in recent years. Pregnant and parenting students are frequently subjected to unlawful policies and practices that deter them from completing their education. Nearly half of all middle and high school students report being sexually harassed in school. And single-sex classrooms often cater to stereotypes about how boys and girls learn, to the detriment of both sexes.
These and other challenges affect the ability of all students – male and female- to get the most out of their education. This in turn endangers the ability of U.S. schools and universities to produce skilled workers who can succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Last year, the Office of Civil Rights received nearly 6000 Title IX complaints. That number is both astonishing and frustrating. We must do better for women and girls. Therefore, the Oakland/Macomb chapter of NOW has decided to take action. We want to partner with the 51 school districts in Oakland and Macomb counties to ensure the effective implementation of Title IX.
First, school districts were surveyed about their Title IX program. Due to insufficient response, no conclusions could be drawn. Next, we enlisted the help of high school interns to audit each district’s website for information about Title IX, including the name and contact information of their Title IX coordinator and the procedure for filing a complaint or grievance. Out of 51 school districts in Oakland and Macomb counties, 13 districts had complete Title IX information, 19 districts had no information, and 19 districts had some information. We then sent letters to each district with our findings, requested compliance with Title IX, and provided them with Title IX resources from the Office of Civil Rights. We plan to follow-up with another audit of district websites to see if districts have complied and meet with those districts that need additional support. Together, we can make a difference.
Written by: Martha O'Kray, Oakland/Macomb MI NOW Chair of Title IX