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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX

The following post appears courtesy of the Civil Rights Division This June, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division commemorates the 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities offered by recipients of federal financial assistance.  Yesterday, the Division released a report highlighting its enforcement of Title IX and its other work to combat sex discrimination in education over the past forty years. The Civil Rights Division helps enforce Title IX by: 
  • Coordinating enforcement of Title IX across federal agencies;
  • Enforcing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and other characteristics in public schools, colleges and universities; and
  • Engaging in a variety of outreach and policy efforts to stop sex-based discrimination. 
The division uses a full range of tools to accomplish these goals, including conducting investigations, filing amicus briefs, participating in lawsuits and negotiating consent decrees and other settlements.  This milestone anniversary provides an opportunity for the division to reflect on its enforcement of federal civil rights laws that prohibit sex-based discrimination and to reaffirm its continuing commitment to addressing this discrimination in a wide range of educational contexts.  Yesterday, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General joined Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett as well as the Secretary of the Department of Education Arne Duncan in a panel discussion hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls to celebrate the anniversary of Title IX.  Other speakers at the White House event included.  At the event, Assistant Attorney General Perez said: It’s about saying to people … the pathways of opportunity for everyone are going to be open, and it’s up to you to seize those opportunities. Despite the gains achieved in the last 40 years, inequalities in education persist.  The division remains committed to pursuing the goal of equality in education through vigorous enforcement of Title IX and other federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination. Preventing and addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence is one critical area in which the department helps to ensure safe school environments where all students can learn.  The division has successfully intervened in lawsuits challenging the sexual harassment of students by other students and school personnel and the failure of schools to promptly and adequately respond.  These cases have resulted in consent decrees that require school districts to develop and fully implement more effective sexual harassment policies and provide comprehensive training for students and staff. Efforts to address these issues at the postsecondary level are also imperative.  The division recently announced a Title IX compliance review and Title IV investigation of the University of Montana’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment and assault.  The division is working collaboratively with OCR to conduct its review and ensure that the University of Montana is responding swiftly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault and harassment of its students.  The division also simultaneously launched an investigation of the university’s campus police, the local police and the local prosecutor’s office to determine whether gender discrimination affected the prevention, investigation or prosecution of sexual assaults by those offices.  By using its broad statutory authority within the division and collaborating across federal agencies, the division is using every available tool to combat discrimination and violence against women. Cases involving peer-on-peer harassment based on gender stereotypes also constitute an active area of the division’s Title IX and Title IV enforcement efforts.  The division has filed amicus briefs and negotiated settlements in several cases involving the physical, verbal and sexual harassment of students who do not conform to gender stereotypes – i.e., stereotypical notions about how boys and girls are “supposed” to dress, act and talk. Most recently, the division, in conjunction with OCR, conducted an extensive investigation into sex-based harassment in the Anoka-Hennepin, Minn., School District’s middle and high schools after receiving a complaint alleging peer harassment based on sex, including harassment based on gender stereotypes.  The joint investigation found that students in the district’s middle and high schools were subject to derogatory language, threats and physical assaults because of their nonconformity to gender stereotypes.  The division and six student plaintiffs achieved a consent decree in which the district agreed to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student sex-based harassment.  Engaging in enforcement of Title IX and Title IV to prevent gender discrimination, including in cases in which male students are the subject of sex-based harassment, furthers the enormous impact these statutes have had and can have in creating safe, discrimination-free educational environments. Title IX also has played a groundbreaking role in increasing opportunities for female athletes in schools and post-secondary institutions.  The division has filed amicus briefs in a range of cases to ensure that female athletes have facilities and competition schedules equivalent to those of their male peers and that they have equal opportunities to participate in high school and intercollegiate competition.  For example, the division intervened in a lawsuit to successfully challenge a South Dakota policy requiring female high school athletes to play certain sports in disadvantageous seasons, which, among other things, negatively impacted their participation in interstate competition.  Equal access to school athletics is an essential element of a nondiscriminatory educational environment, and the division continues to make significant contributions to ensuring that these opportunities are available regardless of sex.  Additional information about the Justice Department’s efforts to address sex discrimination in education can be found here.  Information on Title IX and the division’s work on sex discrimination issues can be found here.
Updated April 7, 2017