Title IX is heard all over the news in regards to transgender sports, yet most parents and students don't understand the law.
Although Title IX is 50 years old, the civil rights law remains a virtual mystery. In a recent poll, almost three-quarters of students between the ages of 12 and 17 claim they know “nothing at all” of what Title IX entails. 60% of parents polled claim the same.
Title IX was part of the Education Amendment of 1972. The federal civil rights law was written to prohibit any sex-based discrimination in schools or other educational programs that receive federal government funding. The gender equity law not only includes education, but also school athletics.
The poll, which showed that parents and students wholeheartedly agree that boys’ and girls’ sports teams should get equal treatment, was conducted by the marketing research and consulting firm Ipsos for the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. Both entities are located at the University of Maryland. It is estimated that nearly 4.6 million boys and over 3.4 million girls engage in high school sports across the nation.
According to the poll, only a third claim to believe that across the United States equal opportunity exists in high school athletics. When asked about their own high schools, though, students and parents feel those do a much better job. Almost two-thirds polled say boys and girls were given equal opportunities.
Breaking down the lack of Title IX knowledge, the poll found differences between adults. 54% of male parents said they knew nothing about Title IX. This compares to 62% of the female parents polled. Almost 80% of those who did not have a college degree said they knew absolutely nothing about the federal civil rights law. 47% of those with a college degree claim to know nothing about Title IX. The poll, conducted online, was comprised of 1,008 parents and 506 children that fell between the ages of 12 and 17 who were enrolled in school.
Title IX says that any school that has an athletic program and is federally funded is required to provide equal opportunity and treatment for boys and girls. This would include areas such as publicity, coaching, and practice facilities. Most of the parents and students polled gave an “unsure” answer when it came to how Title IX is applied and enforced in schools. They were “unsure” if the civil rights law covered all educational programs that get federal funding and they were also “unsure” who can report any Title IX violation. The law does cover all federally funded educational programs and anyone can report a violation.
The enforcement of Title IX is largely based on parents or students who report any sort of unequal opportunity or unfair treatment as they pertain to school athletics. Many of those polled say they are reluctant to speak up about possible Title IX violations because they are afraid of the repercussions. Students feel their peers would react negatively and that retaliation would come their way. Parents feel the same, saying if they went to the school with these complaints that their child would suffer the consequences.
Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, said via AP News in her response statement to the Title IX poll, “While we have made tremendous progress, there is more work to do to build educational environments free from discrimination and to educate the public on how important this law is.” Unfortunately, the problem is first not knowing or understanding the law. Those who do understand the law claim they have no idea if their children’s school even has a proper procedure for handling Title IX complaints. This makes it really difficult for the Office of Civil Rights to enforce it, whether it be on the playing field or in the classrooms.
Title IX is there to ensure equity among boys and girls in school. It can be a very powerful law and has proven so in the past. Parents and students need to know this and understand how it affects them. Schools need to make this information more accessible. Half of the parents polled said they got their Title IX knowledge from online sources and not their children’s school. Only 29% of students said they heard about it from a school source.