Sex Discrimination in Education

Discrimination of individuals on the basis of gender with respect to educational activities and programs (including sports) is prohibited in the U.S. The law, referred to as "Title IX" (corresponding to the relevant section of the Education Amendments of 1972), also protects parents, teachers, and other staff from discriminatory acts. Title IX covers not only includes unequal treatment on the basis of sex or gender, but also encompasses discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes (including gender identity).

Title IX is perceived as a law regarding equal treatment in athletics because it has received a lot of attention for the opportunities it has created for women and girls in amateur athletics and recreational sports. However, Title IX offers numerous protection against discrimination that crosses all areas of academia. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about sex discrimination in education.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities which receive federal financial assistance. Title IX states that:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Are all school districts, colleges, and universities covered by Title IX?

Virtually all public school districts are covered by Title IX because they receive some federal financial assistance and operate education programs. Public colleges and universities generally receive federal financial assistance, and most private colleges and universities receive such assistance. There are some private colleges that do not receive any federal assistance, and Title IX does not apply to them.

Are all programs in a school or college covered if it receives federal financial assistance?

Generally, all programs in a school or college are covered if the school or college receives federal financial assistance. Title IX covers all programs of a school or college that receives financial assistance including academics, extracurricular, and athletics. Also, Title IX applies to all activities of a school or college, even those that occur off campus.

Does Title IX protect only students?

No, Title IX protects all participants in the program from discrimination, including parents, students, and employees.

Are schools responsible for addressing sexual harassment? What about sexual assault or rape?

Yes, when schools become aware that sexual harassment is severe, persistent or pervasive, they must take effective actions. A school can be held legally responsible when its response to the harassment is unreasonable in relation to the known circumstances. The school may even have to pay monetary damages to the victim if the victim can show that the school acted with "deliberate indifference to known acts of harassment in its programs or activities."

Yes, schools are obligated to take action against gender-based violence including sexual assault and rape. Just as with sexual harassment, if a school is on notice of the incident and ignores it, the school can held legally responsible.

Does the harassment have to be on-going? Does Title IX cover a one-time incident?

Under Title IX, the harassment must be severe enough that it affects a student's equal access to education. The courts had ruled that a one-time incident can meet this standard.

Must a school athletic program provide an equal opportunity under Title IX?

School districts and colleges are required to provide an equal opportunity in meeting student interest in sports, and in specific program areas like equipment and supplies and recruitment. However, Title IX does not require identical athletics programs for males and females, nor does it require that each team receive exactly the same services and supplies. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education, the entity that enforces Title IX, examines each program (male and female) as a whole and ascertains whether each program meets the equal opportunity criteria.

Protect Your Title IX Rights

Title IX protects students and others against sex discrimination in education its many forms. Have you have been disqualified from an athletics program because of your gender? If these situations or similar events are familiar to you, then find out how to protect your rights under Title IX. Talk to an attorney who specializes in discrimination issues.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.

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