What Is Title IX?

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 What Is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that seeks to abolish gender discrimination in any educational program that receives federal funds. Prior to Title IX, males were given access to better resources both academically and in athletics programs. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, only 42 percent of the students enrolled in American colleges and universities were female.

However, the passage of Title IX granted women equal opportunity in all aspects of education that are supported by federal dollars. Because of Title IX, a number of lawsuits have been filed by female students who believe that they have not been given the same access to opportunities as male students. Or, they have been the victims of other forms of discrimination on school campuses, e.g. sexual harassment or assault.

In many respects, Title IX has led to changes, especially in the area of athletic programs. It has led schools, school districts, colleges and universities to demonstrate fairness in access to athletic opportunities, scholarships, equipment, publicity, facilities, tutoring opportunities and more. Title IX has also played a big role in how schools respond to claims of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in schools at all levels of education.

If schools are found to have failed to comply with Title IX, they can lose their federal funding. Reportedly, no school has actually lost its funding, although many cases have been litigated in court.

What Steps Should I Take If I Have Experienced Discrimination?

Each institution or organization that receives federal funding must appoint at least one employee to serve as its Title IX coordinator. Their duty is to ensure that Title IX is not being violated at their institution and to answer questions relating to Title IX. Everyone must have access to the Title IX coordinator’s contact information. In order to ensure compliance with Title IX, programs that serve both males and females must not engage in discrimination. This applies to athletics participation numbers, scholarships, program budgets, expenditures, and coaching salaries by gender.

A Title IX coordinators ensures that a school upholds the Title IX policy that prohibits discrimination based on gender for academics, school activities, including athletic programs, and funding. In this role, the Title IX coordinator should inform students, faculty, and administrators to ensure they know their legal rights and obligations under the law of Title IX.

This coordinator is supposed to serve as an advocate for those who allege discrimination, harassment or assault. The coordinator also helps the school protect Title IX rights by coordinating schoolwide efforts and collaborating with staff to enforce regulations. Most colleges and universities typically each have their own Title IX coordinator, but public school districts may only have one coordinator who serves all the elementary, middle and high schools in the district.

A parent with a daughter who believes she has been the victim of discrimination can take a variety of steps to insure fair and equal access to all programs and resources at all levels of education. These steps include:

  • Consult with the Title IX Coordinator: The best person for concerned parents to approach would be a school’s Title IX coordinator. This would be the person best equipped equipped to respond to any claims of discrimination;
  • Compare Resources: A comparison between male and female access to athletic or academic resources can provide a strong indicator of the discrimination between both sexes;
  • Consult with Officials: Parents can consult with school administrators or athletic personnel to determine whether male students receive more resources than female students and why that would be the case.

But again, the Title IX coordinator at a school should be responsive to the concerns of a parent and their child about any perceived discrimination or violations of Title IX.

The school must also create policies for how to report a Title IX issue and set up rules for what will happen next after a report is made. This can be as simple as putting information in a student handbook or on the school’s website about whom to go to with a Title IX complaint. These rules or procedures usually involve some steps or procedures that will be followed to investigate the claim and deal with the issue if the complaint is deemed credible.

Whenever a person decides to file a Title IX complaint with their school district or university, it is important to talk to a lawyer about their case. While an attorney can help a person understand what other steps the person should take beyond complaining to the school, an attorney might also help a person make their best case to their school. In addition, a lawyer can help a person determine if there are financial damages or other relief they can seek by filing a complaint with the federal Department of Education (DOE) or the courts.

What If School Officials Do Not Cooperate?

It would seem unlikely that a Title IX coordinator or other school officials would not at the very least engage in a discussion with parents and answer their questions regarding any perceived difference in opportunities between those offered to males and those offered to females.

For example, parents may have learned that more athletic scholarships are offered to male students than to female students. Parents may want to ask to learn whether there is parity in athletic scholarships, and if there is not, how the school intends to address the problem.

If the Title IX coordinator were to be unable to respond to a parent’s questions and concerns, parents might contact the following offices:

  • If the school is part of a public school district, the parents can contact district officials, such as the superintendent or a member of the local school board, to make their concerns known. If local officials are unresponsive, they could turn to the office of their state’s department of education;
  • The Office of Civil Rights in the federal Department of Education;
  • If the school is a public or private college or university, they should contact university administration. For example, if the student is an undergraduate, the college or university is likely to have a Dean of Undergraduate Education who is responsible for undergraduates and their college experience overall. Their office might be a good place to start.

Despite the fact that Title IX has been the law in the U.S. for decades, there may still be schools in which there are inadequate levels of scholarships and other resources for female athletes, and university officials should be alerted to the problem.

The Department of Education conducts investigations into possible discriminatory practices in local school districts and in colleges and universities. It works with schools to provide equal opportunities for girls. If a college or university ignores a claim of discrimination and fails to take any action, the school may be violating the victim’s Title IX civil rights. The victim can file a complaint with the federal DOE based on Title IX violations. The victim may also be able to file a civil lawsuit in federal court against the college for civil rights violations.

A lawsuit can be filed in federal court at the same time a complaint to the DOE is pending. Filing a lawsuit could, however, delay the Title IX investigation. Before filing a complaint or a lawsuit, a person would want to consult a lawyer experienced in discrimination cases and Title IX.

The remedies available in a Title IX claim may include forcing the university to take action and, in some cases, pay money damages to the victim.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

A government lawyer experienced in the area of education and schools can help parents determine the best course of action regarding discrimination by a school in violation of Title IX.

If school officials have been consulted and have refused to take any action, a lawsuit might be in order to force schools to comply with the provisions of Title IX. Or, a victim can file a complaint with the federal Department of Education. But one can affect the other, so the best place to start is to consult your lawyer who knows the best way to proceed.

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