Happy 50th, Title IX!

Today marks the 50th anniversary since the passing of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as elementary schools to colleges and universities.[1]


Many people know Title IX as it relates to sports. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in high school and collegiate athletic programs. Title IX dramatically increased the number of women playing sports.[2] Before Title IX, one in 27 women played sports.[3] This number has increased to two in five women playing sports today.[4]


In high school, 75% of boys participate in sports while only 60% of girls participate in high school sports.[5] Today, women make up 44% of all NCAA athletes as compared to 15% before Title IX.[6] Collegiate women are still doubly impacted by the lack of opportunity and the correlating lack of scholarship dollars that are often associated with them.[7] Additionally, women of color still lag behind white women in collegiate sports participation.[8]


A hot topic in the Title IX space concerns the rights of transgender students. The issue of the rights of transgender students has come to the forefront recently with the winning streak of Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swims for the University of Pennsylvania.[9] Ms. Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship in the 500-yard women’s freestyle in March 2022.[10] ESPN reported that the crowd at the NCAA was noticeably quiet when Ms. Thomas was announced as champion in the 500-yard race.[11] Many people, even some of her teammates, disagree with her participation in swimming events.


In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to issue new Title IX rules. The new proposed regulations would prohibit discrimination against transgender students. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education, and the new proposed rules would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice recently released a letter on transgender protections, which stated,


The U.S. Department of Justice (the Department) is committed to ensuring that transgender youth, like all youth, are treated fairly and with dignity in accordance with federal law. This includes ensuring that such youth are not subjected to unlawful discrimination based on their gender identity, including when seeking gender-affirming care. [12]


Stay tuned for updates to the Title IX regulations as well as events from the bar associations on this topic!

 

[1] Office for Civil Rights, Title IX and Sex Discrimination, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html (Aug. 2021). [2] Women’s Sports Foundation, Athletes in America, https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/education/title-ix-and-the-rise-of-female-athletes-in-america/ (Sept. 2, 2016). [3]Id. [4]Id. [5] Women’s Sports Foundation, 50 years of Title IX, https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/FINAL6_WSF-Title-IX-Infographic-2022.pdf [6]Id. [7]Id. [8]Id. [9] Robert Sanchez, ‘I Am Lia’: The Trans Swimmer Dividing America Tells Her Story, (March 3, 2022), https://www.si.com/college/2022/03/03/lia-thomas-penn-swimmer-transgender-woman-daily-cover. [10] Les Carpenter, Lia Thomas becomes first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, March 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/2022/03/17/lia-thomas-transgender-swimmer-ncaa-title/. [11] Katie Barnes, Amid protests, Penn swimmer Lia Thomas becomes first known transgender athlete to win Division 1 national championship, March 17, 2022, https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/33529775/amid-protests-pennsylvania-swimmer-lia-thomas-becomes-first-known-transgender-athlete-win-division-national-championship. [12] Letter from U.S. Dep’t of Justice Civil Rights Division to State Attorneys General (March 31, 2022), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1489066/download.

 

Sally Roller is the CWBA Convention Committee Co-Chair and leads the Title IX and education law practice area at Investigations Law Group. She conducts Title IX and workplace investigations for various entities, especially K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Previously, Sally has clerked for a judge, litigated medical malpractice actions, and worked at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in K-12 Education Unit. Sally graduated from Boston College with a double major in secondary education and history as well as a minor in special education. She received her Master of Education in Moderate Special Needs from Boston College. Sally then graduated from Villanova University School of Law.

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