More than campus rape and sports: Six other promises from Title IX

Until my junior year of college, I thought Title IX was a law only about women’s sports. It wasn’t until I was more than halfway done with my time on campus that I found out the law required schools to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Thanks to years of student activism and some nascent government action, today’s undergrads are a lot more savvy than I was. But there’s still a lot more to the law that’s rarely spoken about, beyond its role as a weapon against campus rape and a tool to ensure athletic opportunities for women and girls.

After all, Title IX doesn’t so much as mention sports or rape: it’s an anti-discrimination statute that requires equal opportunity to participate in educational opportunities regardless of sex. Schools have to ensure equal athletic funding and respond to rape (which American law understands as sex-based discrimination, and which disproportionately impacts girls and women) to make sure students of all genders can thrive.

But think about all the ways gender stands in the way of people learning and participating in school, from kindergarten through PhDs — it goes way beyond rape and soccer. Here are nine other things Title IX requires of all schools that receive any federal funding:

1. Schools cannot discriminate against pregnant and parenting students. Pregnant and parenting students can’t be excluded from any activities or classes, and can’t be forced into separate programs. Schools are also required to excuse all medically necessary absences. Learn more from the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.

2. Schools cannot discriminate against trans or genderqueer students on the basis of gender identity. Last year, the Department of Education clarified that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” The year before, the Department required a school to allow a trans boy to use facilities designated for male students. Learn more from the Transgender Law Center.

3. Schools must provide equal opportunities for women in STEM. Title IX requires schools to provide female students equal opportunities to pursue science, technology, education, and math as their male peers. This includes access to lab time and freedom from sexist stereotyping. Learn more from the National Women’s Law Center.

4. Schools must take action to stop anti-LGBT bullying. Queer and trans students are particularly likely to face bullying from classmates, teachers, and administrators, and schools must respond promptly to stop this abuse in its tracks. Learn more from the American Bar Association.

5. Schools (probably) cannot implement sexist and transphobic dress codes. The law on dress codes is relatively sparse, but a school district recently dropped its plans to require students to wear clothing “in keeping with a student’s gender” after lawyers named the rule for what it was: discrimination on the basis of gender. And last year a federal appeals court held that requiring different haircuts for boys and girls is a violation of Title IX.  Learn more from Jessica Valenti.

6. Schools must prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence. Too often, our conversations about gendered harms focus exclusively on rape, which is real and terrible and too common but not the only form of sexualized violence students face. Schools must support survivors of all forms of gender-based abuse, including harassment, groping, stalking, and emotional abuse. And these protections apply to students of all ages, not just college students. Learn more from Know Your IX.

Note: You should probably never treat a blog like legal advice. But, just in case, I’m not a lawyer (yet) and this does not constitute legal advice.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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