Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Passed by Congress in 1972, Title IX is the civil rights law that requires gender equity for males and females in every educational program or activity that receives federal funding. Title IX applies not just to K-12 schools, but to institutions of higher education as well. Title IX is familiar to most people as it applies to sports, but athletics is but one of 10 key areas addressed by the law. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex also encompasses sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
If a college or university is aware of, but ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities, it may be held liable under the law. A school can be held responsible in court whether the harassment is committed by faculty or staff, or by another student. In some cases, the school may be required to pay the victim monetary damages.
As an alternative to suing in civil court, student victims can also ask the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate a school’s response to sexual assault. The Office for Civil Rights has issued a 2001 guidance document covering harassment of students by school employees, other students, and third parties. The office mandates schools take “prompt and effective action to end harassment and prevent its recurrence.”
Since its passage 35 years ago, Title IX has been amended three times, and has been the subject of a variety of reviews, Supreme Court cases, and political protest actions.