Education On the Hill

Gender Equity in Education Act Reintroduced in House and Senate to Advance Title IX’s Implementation

Last Wednesday, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA), reintroduced the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA) in Congress.

The House and Senate versions of the bill, H.R.4097 and S.2186, would support the implementation of Title IX by providing resources, funding, and training to reduce and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex in education. Senator Hirono and Representative Matsui reintroduced the legislation on Title IX’s 49th anniversary.

Both Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), who died in 2002, and Representative Louis Slaughter (D-NY), who died in 2018, spearheaded campaigns for gender equity in Congress. Rep. Mink was the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and a leading author of the 1972 Title IX law and the Women’s Educational Equity Act in 1974.

“Trailblazers Patsy Mink and Louise Slaughter spent their careers demanding better opportunities for all Americans, regardless of their gender. This bill builds on their legacy by providing more funding to address sex-based harassment and discrimination in education,” Senator Hirono said in a statement last Wednesday. “On the 49th anniversary of Title IX’s enactment, Congress should act now to make sure that all students can learn in safe and supportive learning environments.”

The bill would create necessary infrastructure to protect students against sex discrimination “based on multiple characteristics including actual or perceived sex—including sex stereotypes; pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; sexual orientation or gender identity.” It would also work to reduce discrimination based on other characteristics such as race, national origin, and disability.

The legislation would create an Office for Gender Equity in the U.S. Department of Education, fund grants for schools to promote Title IX, and provide annual training and resources to Title IX oordinators about Title IX compliance.

Numerous organizations have expressed their support for the bill. “Title IX became law on this day 49 years ago, and we celebrate the advances made in education to ensure that all students, including women and girls, have equal access to education,” Shiwali Patel, Director of Justice for Student Survivors & Senior Council at the National Women’s Law Center, said. “However, much remains to be done to eliminate sex discrimination and bias in schools, and GEEA brings us closer towards achieving this and creating equitable and welcoming school environments.

GEEA “has great potential for making a comprehensive and lasting impact on improving gender equity in and through education,” said Dr. Sue Klein, Education Equity Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Using existing legislation, GEAA should inspire the Education Department to establish an Office for Gender Equity and issue new guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the Title IX Coordinators in a Title IX Gender Equity infrastructure even before GEEA is passed.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation, National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, and others are requesting that the Department of Education (ED), establish an Office for Gender Equity in ED reporting to the Secretary of Education as specified in the reintroduced GEEA for the 117th Congress even before GEEA is signed.

“Patsy Mink and Louise Slaughter were tireless warriors for equality and continue to serve as our north star for expanding opportunity and eradicating discrimination on the basis of sex in schools everywhere,” Representative Matsui said. “By introducing this legislation on the forty-ninth anniversary of Title IX, we honor and build on their legacy—continuing to fight against discrimination and ensuring our nation’s schools provide a just learning environment for all.”

Sources: Senator Hirono 6/23/21; Congress.gov 6/23/21; Ms. Magazine 6/24/21; Feminist Newswire 6/26/19

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