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Title IX Turns 50: A Legislative Look At What Comes Next  

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the landmark federal legislation that shaped gender equality law for the last five decades in the U.S., turned 50 last week. Legal scholars, education experts and athletes reflected on the impact of the law and considered what else can be done to improve equality in the U.S.

girls gff2dcb49a 640To that end, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) celebrated the milestone in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Democratic Women’s Caucus with a series of events, including a STEM field day and discussion on Capitol Hill. “It’s great to see everyone celebrating this essential legislation and the progress made over the last 50 years, yet we cannot take Title IX for granted,” said Danette Leighton, WSF CEO. “As transformational as the law has been, the full promise of Title IX has not yet been met for many girls and women across our nation; we still have work to do.”

According to Title IX for All, since 1990 there have been 781 lawsuits filed by individuals who felt their rights were infringed upon during investigations related to Title IX complaints. Ahead of the anniversary, the WSF issued a report entitled “50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet,” which outlines the group’s legislative agenda and highlights areas where it sees opportunities to strengthen the law.

One area that could use some improvement, notes WSF, is with respect to young girls’ participation in sports prior to college. According to the advocacy organization, the report indicates even though girls’ high school sports participation is up twelvefold since 1972, girls today still lag where their male counterparts were at the time the law was passed. The number of boys playing high school sports in 1972 pushed past 3.6 million, compared to the 3.4 million girls playing today. Further, female participation falls well shy of the 4.5 million boys playing presently, it adds.

“Through the lens of the past 50 years, the full power of Title IX will not be realized without recognizing that not all girls and women, as well as individuals whose gender identity does not conform to Title IX’s implicit and explicit gender binary, have benefited from the legislation or been well-served by it,” continues the report.

According to WSF, there are still gaps in the law with respect to Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and other female athletes of color facing obstacles to participation. These challenges extend to the LGBTQ+ community as well as female athletes dealing with disabilities. “It’s vital for everyone–especially younger generations–to understand their rights to equal access and opportunity. That’s at the heart of this important law, which needs to be fully enforced and protected to reach equity,” Leighton said.

From Twitter 

The Recount @therecount

“It’s not just about sports … it’s not just about education, Title IX is about who we are as a nation.” — First Lady Jill Biden and tennis legend Billie Jean King ahead of the 50th anniversary of Title IX on Thursday"

Recommendations from the group to strengthen Title IX and improve the scope of the law’s protections include:

  • Continuing to fund the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education so it can “expand its efforts to enforce Title IX and shorten the investigation and resolution timeline for all reviews;”
  • Initiating proactive reviews for more institutions and offering guidance related to questions about enforcement;
  • Passing the “Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act of 2021,” which recognizes the need for more training, resources and technical assistance to schools;
  • Ending the “contact sports exemption,” which WSF says “denies girls and women the opportunity to try out for some teams otherwise designated for boys and men.”
  • Reassessing Title IX’s applicability to intramurals, club sports and recreation programs.

“As a collegiate student-athlete, I know first-hand the power of Title IX–I benefitted greatly from it,” said Meghan Duggan, WSF president and U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Olympic medalist. “The opportunity to play, challenge myself, master new skills and excel, created a powerful foundation for my career both on and off the ice. I want every girl to have that same opportunity to unlock her own possibilities. Ensuring Title IX stays strong is important for everyone.”

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