Breaking Down Title IX

When it was originally passed in 1972, the purpose of Title IX was to ensure equality on the basis of sex in the realm of education. Today, it is being used by the Trump administration to define the lines of gender and how to handle sexual assault when it happens in schools and universities. 

The Original Text

According to the Department of Justice, the original thirty-seven words of text that make-up Title IX reads as follows:

“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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In 1972, Title IX was passed to ensure that women would have the same opportunity and chances that men had when it came to higher education. Today, it has become much more than that as recent administrations have tried to interpret these words toward creating the social change they see as necessary.

Interpretations From Administrations

Under the administration of Barack Obama, Title IX was used to extend protections to transgender students and victims of sexual assault and harassment. The Obama administration sought to end any harassment, eliminate any hostile environments that may have been created in the process and put efforts toward preventing harassment of any kind from occurring again.

An original cabinet member of President Trump, Betsy DeVos is the current Secretary of Education. She’s attempting to create consistency in cases related to Title IX across the country. According to a memo found by U.S. News, the Trump Administration is looking to “define sex and gender using a person’s biological standing as male or female upon birth.” This basically means that gender is based on what the doctor assigned on the birth certificate and takes identifying transgender out of the equation. Under Trump, Title IX responds to sexual assault with actual knowledge of the event.

There are potential benefits of what DeVos is trying to do. The complainants will receive supportive measures, as well as a “meaningful” response to any report of sexual harassment. It reinforces that rulings are made without sex stereotypes, which is already assured through case law. The victim and the accused will also be able to appeal at schools that allow for appeals. However, there are also some major concerns that should be mentioned.

Concerns

With the new changes that the Trump Administration is pushing, there are several concerns everyone should be aware of, such as how sexual harassment is being redefined. To be acted upon, the most severe levels of harassment must be in question; it must be pervasive and objectively offensive. This will also require live hearings with both parties present, which could cause psychological or emotional harm to survivors.

Schools will be required to run highly legal and criminal processes. In responses, the Title IX Directors of the State University System of Florida have stated their belief that “educational institutions are not courtrooms" and therefore are not equipped to run said processes.

One of the changes that DeVos wants to bring forth is how involved schools are in sexual assault situations. By requiring that victims must report their situation to a particular set of school employees, the chances that school will get involved and the victim will get justice are reduced. Students may not trust the select group of employees in question and therefore will not turn to them. The school is not required to take action otherwise. These rules also are not carried out the same way, depending on if you are in elementary schools, secondary schools, or universities.

The new interpretation of Title IX defines general terms of accommodations for victims—general being the keyword. There’s a reduction in schools’ responsibility for addressing any off-campus misconduct, which creates a lapse in protection. Also, it doesn't require that school staff be trained in how to handle victim scenarios or how to remedy them. 

What’s Happening Now

The Public Comment period of discussing Title IX ended on January 30. Now, the Department of Education is reviewing and contemplating the amendment of proposed policy changes and trying to legislate constitutional law without the power to do so. Luckily, the University of Central Florida has conduct policies that already provide extended protections and proposed regulations combat the progress already made. But what about other schools and places?

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