50 years ago, Title IX created a revolution in women's education and sports, transforming college campuses and K-12 school grounds. Today, it is impossible to count the opportunities available to women and girls who otherwise would not have seen a basketball court or attained a postgraduate degree.
Nonetheless, our fight for equal rights and protections for girls and women is not finished. Inequality continues unabated in high school and college sports; however, more importantly, the protections provided by Title IX are under attack in the same culture wars over libraries, education, and elections.
Before Title IX was passed, there were few opportunities for girls and women in sports, college, and the working world, but the passage of Title IX changed that by working to eliminate sex-based discrimination, ensuring that all students have equal access and opportunity in education–covering athletics, housing, and scholarships–while providing protections from sexual harassment and assault. An Association of American Universities report finds that nearly 26% of college women report nonconsensual sexual contact, so sexual assault protections were critical to ensuring safety and opportunity.
In 2020, the Secretary of the US Department of Education Betsy Devos implemented changes to Title IX that reduced protections of Title IX based on significant input from “men's rights” groups. These changes had profound effects reducing the number of sexual assault claims, narrowing definitions of sexual harassment, and reducing the rights of sexual assault survivors. Critics of the Trump administration changes highlight their failure to adequately protect those who have suffered sexual assault, including outsized effects students of color.
Northern Virginia was rocked by local repercussions of the Devos Title IX changes. In case of two 2021 Loudoun sexual assaults, Devos Title IX changes excluded the accused from any discipline in the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) until the the entire investigation and grievance process was completed. Thus, the accused remained in LCPS while the Loudoun Sheriff’s office conducted their investigation after a June 2021 sexual assault, thereby permitting a second sexual assault by the same accused perpetrator on LCPS grounds. As a result, LCPS is implementing Policy 805 to bridge the gap left by the weakening of sexual assault protections in Title IX under the Trump administration.
Other discriminatory changes to the implementation of Title IX by the Trump administration included “dismantling long-standing protections and opening the door to sex-based discrimination against LGBTQ+ students.” This contradicted federal case precedent that found that protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is included in Title IX protections from discrimination on the basis of sex. The governing U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling in Bostock v Clayton determines that discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation and transgender status “ is by its very nature “discrimination based on sex” and thus violates both Title IX and the constitution. Therefore, current Title IX changes are the result of the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden Administration literally bringing Title IX in line with current SCOTUS rulings on the law and the constitution.
If it is not clear, Title IX has far reaching consequences that reduce discrimination for ALL students, which is why the Biden Administration is acting to modify Title IX to amend the harmful changes made under the Trump Administration, while simultaneously codifying protections for all students, including LGBTQIA students, into law. This will enable the Biden administration to combat “Don’t Say Gay” laws and intentionally discriminatory bathroom bills passed in a number of states.
The public supports nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, so the Biden Administration is implementing the will of the American People, despite the loudest voices to the contrary. A number of groups, many of which are funded by dark money to push a right-wing agenda, are conducting widespread disinformation campaigns about the new Title IX legislation under the guise of “protecting women's sports.”
Don’t be fooled, because most these groups have historically pushed anti-woman campaigns against the Equal Rights Amendment, paid maternity leave, Violence Against Women Act, and so much more. They are using both women and women’s sports as a pawn to push an anti-LGBTQIA agenda, but also to undermine all protections in a revised Title IX. By focusing on the extremely rare occurrence of trans women in elite sports, they are fomenting a fake crisis to pass dangerous bills enabling “genital inspections” on school-aged athletes to verify the gender of the athlete. Regarding multiple such Ohio bills, Ohio Representative Rich Brown says, “This is not a real problem. This is a made-up, ‘ let’s feed red meat to the base’ issue.”
Similarly, Maria Bruno of Equality Ohio says that people in the LGBTQIA community are asking, “‘What did I do to them? because they keep coming after me…But the answer is nothing, just existing.”
I am a woman and a mother whose entire lifetime of opportunities was vastly improved by the support and protections that Title IX gave me. I had an equal opportunity to education, which meant that no one could prohibit me from pursuing a masters degree at Duke University. Equal access to sports meant that I was team captain and ran track for all four years of high school which gave me strength, confidence, and friends who will last a lifetime.
I want the same for my daughter and her friends, none of whom should be discriminated against based on their gender or gender identity. I want less discrimination and dehumanization in our community and more love, support, and safety for all of our students in our publicly supported schools.