Title IX Background

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law enacted by the United States Congress in 1972. The law states the following:

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 is not a law, but an amendment. It is one of many amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965. The amendments together are termed the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX is one of the most commonly litigated amendments. The influence of Title IX on higher education and secondary education in the United States has been enormous. Title IX, in essence, establishes the guarantee that every student is free from sex-based discrimination. To enforce the provisions of Title IX, federal law mandates that federal funding will be withheld from educational institutions that do not enforce Title IX. All schools receiving federal funding must implement policies and procedures that sanction and reduce sex-based discrimination and harassment.

Any educational institution receiving federal funds from the Department of Education is subject to Title IX and must not allow sex-based discrimination. Local and state educational agencies are also bound by Title IX. Universities, colleges, and secondary schools also must not retaliate against a person for expressing opposition to unlawful policies and practices.

Why was Title IX Created?

​Title IX arose during an important time in the legislative history of the United States. Most universities and colleges in the United States in the mid-twentieth century were not amenable to providing women with everything they needed to take advantage of their time as college students. Many private universities and colleges had only admitted women a few decades before Title IX was enacted by the United States Congress. In some instances, women were not granted admission to some universities and colleges until 1970.

During these decades, universities and colleges had different atmospheres than they do today. Dress codes, student conduct, and how students presented themselves were more important to universities and colleges during the 1960s and 1970s. Female students were often subject to greater disciplinary measures than their male counterparts. Some campuses restricted how female students could dress and how late they could be outside of their dormitories.

During this important period when women were gaining access to higher education, many universities and colleges were not welcoming female students. Specific areas of study were denied to some female students at universities and colleges. Women during this time were sometimes denied scholarships or admission to specific courses due to discrimination based on their sex.

In the midst of this discriminatory atmosphere, the United States Congress enacted Title IX. The women’s rights movement and Title IX advanced the equal treatment of women in the United States. Women now constitute the majority of undergraduate students in the United States. Universities and colleges have become less discriminatory toward women over time.

Title IX and Athletics

Title IX was most often applied to cases involving college athletics when it was first enacted. Sports that received financial support from alumni and outside resources were not regulated under Title IX. Only sports teams that received funding from the federal government were regulated under Title IX.

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

Many new issues have become prominent during the past decade regarding Title IX and sexual misconduct. Universities and colleges now use Title IX to investigate instances of sexual misconduct. The following questions have become relevant during the past ten years:

  • Do universities and colleges possess the resources necessary to investigate sexual misconduct cases?
  • Do faculty members and administrators have a duty to intervene if they become aware of instances of sexual misconduct?
  • Are accusations of rape, sexual assault, and stalking applicable to the definition of discrimination under Title IX?
  • Should educational institutions be liable for instances of sexual misconduct?
  • Are sexual offenses related to education at universities, colleges, and secondary schools?

The Difficulty Defining Aspects of Title IX

Many interpretations may apply to what necessarily constitutes interfering in an individual person’s rights and opportunities. Direct and indirect actions may fall under the provisions of Title IX. Many problems arise when students attempt to determine what behavior is regulated by Title IX. Many authorities interpreting this language have applied it across many different types of conduct and behavior. Any action may conceivably interfere with an individual’s education, including sexual misconduct and harassment. Sexual assault is based on a female student’s sex, and this act prohibits her from enjoying every benefit of her education.

Not acting to prevent sexual discrimination may violate the provisions of Title IX. Educational institutions must actively respond to any student behavior that may violate Title IX, and they must attempt to stop discriminatory acts from occurring. Also, educational institutions must institute policies and procedures designed to prevent these behaviors from happening.

Equal Rights Under Title IX

​Title IX relates to equal protection and the reduction of sex-based discrimination in schools receiving federal funding. Title IX specifically refers to schools using sex to exclude or deny benefits to any students. The language of Title IX refers to any activity that receives federal funding, not only educational activities. One example concerns sports-related activities in universities, colleges, and secondary schools. Students cannot be denied the right to participate in athletic programs based on their sex. Women cannot be denied the benefits offered to men at their educational institution.

Discrimination of any kind based on sex is prohibited under Title IX. What constitutes “discrimination” has had to be interpreted over since Title IX was enacted by the United States Congress. Any conduct or activity that limits the rights a woman has to the same educational opportunities as males is discrimination under Title IX. Denying female students the rights to apply to scholarships, and treating females in an unequal manner in the classroom, are examples of discrimination under Title IX. Sexual harassment and relationship violence also fall under the purview of Title IX.

​Specific Regulatory Guidelines

​Federal regulations attempt to provide educational institutions with guidelines regarding Title IX and its interpretation. Universities, colleges, and secondary schools have assistance in Title IX investigations. Also, Title IX coordinators and investigators go through an extensive training period. Universities and colleges throughout the United States participate in the standardization of Title IX policies. Every presidential administration since 2000 has instituted new guidelines for enforcing Title IX.

Many guidelines exist that help educational institutions interpret Title IX. The following are specific guidelines that constitute prohibited conduct under Title IX:

  • Interfering in any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity held by an individual
  • Aiding a person, organization, or agency in practicing sexual discrimination
  • Applying housing regulations and rules in a discriminatory manner on the basis of sex
  • Not permitting a person to have specific services or benefits on the basis of sex
  • Giving a person different services or benefits on the basis of sex

Unequal treatment when making decisions regarding services, benefits, and financial aid

Who Administers Title IX?

The executive branch is responsible for administering Title IX. Presidential administrations assert their authority to interpret and implement Title IX. Beginning in the 1990s, presidential administrations have altered how they interpret and implement the provisions of Title IX. Universities and colleges under the Clinton administration were tasked with preventing, eliminating, and remedying sexual harassment.

The Obama Administration. The Obama Administration altered the landscape of Title IX when it issued the Dear Colleague letter. Policies outlined in this letter lowered the evidentiary standard for sexual misconduct cases from a “clear and convincing” standard to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Also, the letter made Title IX applicable to speech that made a member of the opposite sex uncomfortable.

​The Trump Administration. The Secretary of Education set forth reformed rules stating how universities, colleges, and secondary schools should investigate instances of sexual misconduct. The Trump administration restricted how discrimination was defined under Title IX. Also, universities, colleges, and secondary schools were only responsible for investigating incidents that occurred on campus property. Title IX Respondents were also guaranteed the right to a hearing. Title IX complainants and respondents were also given the right to examine and cross-examine witnesses.

​The Biden Administration. The Biden Administration intends to enlarge Title IX to include discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Title IX will continue to evolve as each new executive administration takes office.

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