The law, which bars sex-based discrimination in education, was signed by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, shepherding in a new era in education that continues to push for equality and to eliminate sex-based discrimination.
“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,” the statute reads.
The 37-word statute covers most K-12 schools, colleges, universities, vocational schools, and other educational institutions that receive federal funding.
The wide scope of the law applies to numerous areas of education: athletics, recruitment, admission, sexual assault and violence on campus, and financial assistance.
The definition of discrimination has been used broadly under Title IX, covering students, faculty, administrators, staff, and students who are pregnant or a parent. More recently, Title IX has been invoked to bar discrimination against LGBT students and educators.
One area that it has had a particular effect on is athletics, opening doors for women in sports across all levels. Athletic interests and abilities for male and female students “must be equally and effectively accommodated” under the law.
It does not necessarily mean though that a college or university has to offer the same sports to each sex or provide equal budgets for facilities, travel, or meals. Athletic departments typically work under the idea of “equal in effect,” which means a benefit for a men’s or women’s team can offset differences in another area as long as they are “negligible,” according to the Associated Press.
Complaints of Title IX violations can be handled either at the local or federal level.
Every educational institution receiving federal funding is required to have a Title IX coordinator to ensure the institution is in compliance with the law, following stipulated procedures for how to handle cases alleging sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and violence. Each school can also be disciplined for Title IX violations.
Federal enforcement of Title IX falls under the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination,” the website reads. Anyone can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights or bring his or her case through a lawsuit before a federal court.
In the decades since Title IX’s passing, the law has paved the way for the explosion of women’s sports and has been instrumental in combating sexual assault and violence in educational settings.