Women’s Rights Groups Win Title IX Victory

Faced with overwhelming support for Title IX, the Bush administration announced Friday that there will be no changes to the landmark 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education. The Feminist Majority, together with other leading women’s rights organizations has been working to block any changes to the law. “One year, one stacked commission, and the outrage of women’s groups all over the country, and finally the Bush administration recognizes the vast support for Title IX,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, who helped lead the fight to reinstate Title IX in the 1980s. “Too bad it made us lose vital time and money that could better be spent enforcing Title IX.”

Gerald Reynolds, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the Department of Education, sent a letter to educational institutions across the country announcing that mechanisms currently in place to measure compliance with the law for athletic programs will remain as they are. “[The Office for Civil Rights] recognizes that the question of how to comply with Title IX and to provide equal athletic opportunities for all students is a challenge for many academic institutions,” Reynolds wrote. “But OCR believes that the three-prong test has provided, and will continue to provide, schools with the flexibility to provide greater athletic opportunities for students of both sexes.”

In response to claims from men’s secondary athletic programs such as wrestling and swimming that Title IX compliance forced their programs to be cut, the Bush administration appointed a 15-member Commission on Opportunity in Athletics stacked with Title IX opponents to review the law – which has enabled the increase of women’s participation in sports by more than 400 percent at the college level and more than 800 percent at the high school level over the past 30 years. In February, the commission released a report that recommended gutting Title IX – two commissioners, Donna DeVarona and Julie Foudy also released a minority report defending the law. In the end the Bush administration had to ignore the majority’s recommendations and recognize the power of women’s votes.

While Title IX has enabled major advances in sports for women and girls, participation opportunities, operating budgets, recruitment and scholarship funds are still vastly lower than men’s. In his letter, Reynolds committed OCR resources to an educational campaign on Title IX compliance and aggressive enforcement of Title IX standards.

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Office of Civil Rights 7/11/03; National Women's Law Center press release 7/11/03; Washington Post 7/13/03; Kansas City Star 7/13/03; USA Today 7/14/03

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