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Title IX

Indianapolis Joins the 21st Century and Agrees to Equal Access in Sports

For the 2010-11 school year, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) had approximately 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys enrolled in high school. Yet the school gave girls only 35 percent of the total athletic opportunities.

The 15-percentage point disparity was not based on a lack of interest in sports. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education initiated an investigation and found that IPS’s athletic program failed to provide girls equal opportunity. IPS provided fewer sports for girls, and for those sports that were provided, the female teams received inferior treatment with respect to practice fields, locker rooms, equipment, supplies, and the scheduling of practice times and games.   Read more »

Nine Ways Title IX Changed My Life

Although I was an athlete in high school, I don’t recall hearing anyone talk about National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) during those years. When I asked one of my former coaches about it, she told me that our school chose a group of girls each year to participate in NGWSD activities held at a local university. I was glad to hear this, but surprised that there was so little known about this day and its purpose. As I reflect on this day, and the importance of Title IX in sports, I thought I’d share my list of the nine things Title IX did for me: Read more »

Obama to Sexual Assault Survivors: "I've Got Your Back"

It pains me that there is no shortage of examples suggesting a dire need for reform in how sexual assault survivors are treated on college campuses. Take for instance Amherst’s response to a sexual assault case, whose policy ‘treats alleged rapists better than laptop thieves,’ or the survivor of assault who faced retaliation for filing a federal complaint against the University of North Carolina.

So when I heard that Obama announced a new plan to combat this depressing trend, all I could think was ‘Hallelujah!!!’

Yesterday, President Obama announced the creation of a task force to protect students from sexual assault, which he described as “an epidemic,” particularly on college campuses. This new initiative – a collaboration between the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President – will facilitate ‘information sharing among key federal agencies’ about best practices to prevent sexual assault and provide support for survivors. 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 »

Pregnant or Parenting Student Moms, This is for You!

If you’re a student who is or may be pregnant, a student who is parenting, or a parent thinking about going back to school to further your education, here’s my holiday gift to you. I hope you can use it!

First off, know your rights as a student under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. At stake is your life and well-being and that of your children, so don’t just take Professor So-and-So’s word for it if you are told you should drop out of the program, switch programs, skip a semester, or accept failure. Brandi Kostal at Logan University in St. Louis and Stephanie Stewart at one of the City University of New York’s many community colleges did not take it when their respective universities would not excuse their pregnancy-related absences nor allow them to make up work they missed. Instead, they sought help and made noise. NWLC filed complaints on behalf of both Brandi and Stephanie and secured settlements – one just last week – in which their colleges agreed to take important steps to prevent and address such discrimination, including adopting new policies regarding the treatment of pregnant and parenting students.

So sure, your professor gave you a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. And maybe it said that you can’t miss a certain number of classes without failing the course. But Title IX says that your school must excuse your absences due to pregnancy or related conditions, including childbirth and recovery, for as long as your doctor says it’s medically necessary. It’s important to know your rights! Read more »

Logan Adopts New Title IX Policy—Other Colleges, Take Note

In July, the National Women’s Law Center (and co-counsel B. Lane Hasler) filed a Title IX complaint against Logan College of Chiropractic University Programs in St. Louis for maintaining an attendance policy that treats pregnancy-related absences as unexcused and for discriminating against pregnant student Brandi Kostal. Today, we settled the case, with Logan agreeing to take important steps to ensure that this type of discrimination does not happen again.

Title IX protects against sex discrimination in education, and pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination. The law guarantees that schools must give all students who might be, are, or have been pregnant the same access to school programs and extracurricular activities that other students have. This means that schools must excuse absences for as long as the student’s doctor says is necessary, and must let the student make up the work missed while out. These rules apply to all schools that receive federal funds—including colleges whose students get federal financial aid. In June, the Department of Education issued guidance on Title IX’s application to schools’ treatment of pregnant and parenting students, which reaffirmed that students who miss classes, clinic hours, or any other educational programs due to pregnancy and related conditions cannot be penalized and must be given the opportunity to make up work they miss. The law is clear, but many schools do not adopt policies or practices consistent with their obligations under Title IX. 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 »

Kansas Boy Suspended for Not Being Manly Enough

Ready for the absurd?

Yesterday a Kansas school suspended a 13-year old student for wearing a purse. Happened to be a Vera Bradley bag, but that shouldn’t matter, because it wasn’t the bright colors or quilted paisley design that prompted the disciplinary action. It was the fact that the student is a boy. There is no school rule about wearing purses, and female students who do so are not punished. But widely held, stubborn stereotypes are that females carry purses and men don’t. This boy, Skylar, defied that stereotype, and his school wouldn’t tolerate it. Read more »

Know Your Rights: Sexual Violence on Campus

In a 2009 study, nearly 20% of undergraduate women surveyed reported that they experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while enrolled in college. Use this blog post as a basic tool to understanding your rights under Title IX, a federal law.

What is Title IX, and how does it apply to sexual assault?

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits all discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding, which includes nearly all public schools, colleges, and universities. The ban on sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault. Read more »

Pants on FIRE: Four Myths (and Truths) About the Work of the Departments of Education and Justice on Sexual Violence at Schools

Sexual harassment and violence are persistent problems at universities, high schools, and even middle schools across the country. In a national survey of nearly 2,000 seventh- through twelfth-graders conducted in 2011, nearly half of all students surveyed reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-11 school year. In a 2009 study, nearly 20% of undergraduate women surveyed reported that they experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while enrolled in college. And a study published by the National Institute of Justice estimated that colleges experience more than 35 incidents of sexual violence per 1,000 female students. Read more »