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Guidance from the Departments of Ed & Justice Will Enforce Education Rights of Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (DOJ) released a joint guidance letter reminding juvenile justice residential facilities of their obligations under Title IX [PDF] and other civil rights laws to provide equal access to quality educational opportunities for confined youth.

The guidance makes it clear that under Title IX, all facilities that receive federal funds must offer equal educational opportunities without regard to sex. That means youth detention centers must make sure girls have equal access to career and technical programs and that facilities cannot rely on gender stereotypes when determining what opportunities to make available (e.g., automotive repair classes only for boys and cosmetology only for girls). The guidance also says that under Title IX, facilities must protect committed youth from sexual harassment and violence regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or conformity with sex stereotypes. Read more »

Department of Ed Takes Single-Sex Classes Out of the Twilight Zone

Imagine a public, co-ed elementary school in the 21st century where boys and girls are divided into separate classrooms for reading and language arts. In the boys classroom, pictures of race cars and sports imagery decorate the walls and students take part in competitive learning games; in contrast, the girls classroom is decked out in pink and animal prints with a poster warning students to “Act pretty at all times,” and students always work collaboratively in groups. Sadly, you’re not in the Twilight Zone. Classrooms like these actually exist in the United States today. Based on debunked studies that claim girls’ brains aren’t wired for competition and that boys’ brains can’t grasp emotions, single-sex classrooms that promote sex stereotypes have flourished—even though they employ sex-based discriminatory teaching methods that violate Title IX. Read more »

"Every data point represents a life:" New Data Shed Light on Educational Disparities

We are all familiar with the saying “knowledge is power,” and when it comes to ensuring equal access to educational opportunities, it couldn’t be more true. Far too many students are still not receiving the education they deserve, and data are critical to understanding the magnitude of educational inequity throughout the country.

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new civil rights data, the first of its scope in nearly 15 years. The new 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) compiles data from all 97,000 public schools and 16,500 school districts. This represents 49 million students across the country. And, for the first time ever, all state-, district-, and school-level data are searchable in an online database. These comprehensive data can empower parents, advocates, and local and state governments to assess their schools and help create informed policies that better support students.

Some of the new key data findings that relate to girls and other issues we focus on at NWLC include: Read more »

Principal's Office or Police Station: New Guidance on School Discipline

With the proliferation of “zero tolerance” policies and the increased presence of law enforcement in schools, far too many students are suspended, expelled, or arrested for minor offenses and misbehavior. These policies are pushing students — mostly students of color and students with disabilities — out of school. Read more »

Speak Spanish? Title IX Rights for Pregnant and Parenting Students Translated

All too often pregnant students are treated differently than other students and pushed out of school because of their pregnancies. Under Title IX, this is illegal. Title IX protects against sex discrimination in education, and pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination. The law requires that schools give all students who might be, are, or have been pregnant the same access to school programs and extracurricular activities that other students have.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance to all federally funded education programs on the Title IX rights of pregnant and parenting students. The guidance made clear that schools cannot discriminate against students on the basis of pregnancy. Read more »

Unsafe Spaces: Sexual Harassment and Violence Are Plaguing our Nation’s Schools

After leaving a homecoming dance, a high school girl was brutally raped. Other students photographed the rape but never reported it to police or school officials. Other girls in the school said they felt unsafe and avoided school activities. An employee at the school watched female students change clothes in the bathroom and inappropriately touched them. He was merely reprimanded and allowed to serve as the assistant girls’ basketball coach the next year. Middle school students in the district routinely faced physical and verbal harassment in front of teachers--including grabbing of breasts and genitals and calling male students “faggot” if they weren’t stereotypically masculine. The teachers often failed to report the harassment, let alone address it.

These incidents are actual findings from a recent Department of Education Title IX investigation of a school district in California. And they are not isolated examples, but reflect a widespread problem facing our nation’s schools and colleges. The pattern is all too familiar. A student is sexually assaulted or harassed, the school doesn’t respond appropriately, so the student faces escalating harassment, often both at school and online, and ends up feeling like she has no place to hide, no place where she is safe. Read more »

Schools Behaving Badly: More Pregnancy Discrimination Brings New NWLC Complaint

When it comes to protecting the rights of pregnant and parenting students, the National Women’s Law Center’s work is never done. It was not too long ago that we settled a complaint against the CUNY system in New York City on behalf of Stephanie Stewart, whose professor did not excuse her pregnancy-related absences. Today, we are filing another complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, this time on behalf of Brandi Kostal, a student in a joint Masters of Science in Nutrition and Doctorate of Chiropractic program at Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis.

When Brandi had an emergency c-section in the middle of last term, one of her top concerns was finishing her courses so she could stay on track and graduate on time. But Logan College’s absence policy is incredibly strict: absences are only excused for jury duty or military service, and for many classes, missing just 2 sessions would push her into “attendance failure.” Brandi was doing well in her doctorate classes and did not want to withdraw or be penalized for her absences, which were the only options she was given. So she returned to her hectic class schedule just 11 days after her complicated surgery. She was in great pain, could not take her pain medications so she could drive, and had to stop breastfeeding her 11-day old infant. Read more »

The Department of Education’s Collection of Gender Equity in Athletics Data Is Critical

The title of this post is the message we conveyed to the Department of Education in response to their request for public input regarding the collection of Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) data. If you’re not familiar with the EADA, check out our one-pager here that explains what the law requires of colleges and universities (for example, the numbers of men and women playing sports and expenses allocated to each team). The Department helpfully puts all of this info on a website where anyone can look up any institution and print out a few pages with all the information that schools are required to disclose. Read more »

Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Extracurricular Activities: “We’re all on the same team.”

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) just released much-anticipated guidance (available here) on the inclusion of students with disabilities in extracurricular activities – which includes club, intramural, and interscholastic athletic programs.

The guidance provides information to schools on their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in federally funded programs. Section 504 requires schools (traditional and charter) to provide a qualified student with a disability an opportunity to benefit from the school district’s program equal to that of students without disabilities. Under Section 504, a disability is any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities (students who receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) qualify as students with disabilities under Section 504). Read more »

Girls’ Basketball Team in Indiana School District Finally Will Get Equal Treatment

After refusing to voluntarily do the right thing for well over a decade, Franklin County High School has finally filed an agreement in court (PDF) to schedule its girls’ basketball team equally in primetime slots (Friday and Saturday games). Unfortunately, it took a Title IX lawsuit to convince the school that scheduling almost all of the boys’ games on weekends and only about half of the girls’ games on weekends was unfair. Nevermind that the United States Department of Education sent a letter to Indiana high schools expressing concern over their scheduling practice of reserving primetime slots for boys’ games – in 1997! Read more »