Threats to Title IX

2020 Changes to Title IX Sexual Harassment Regulations

In May 2020 the Department of Education completed the process of creating new regulations detailing how educational institutions must comply with Title IX as it relates to sexual harassment. These new regulations replace the Title IX policies released by the Obama administration, and, unlike the Obama policies, are legally binding. While the Trump Administration has stated that the new rules will ensure due process protections are upheld during Title IX investigations, gender equity experts and those working with victims of sexual harassment have criticized the new regulations. These experts argue that the regulations will limit both the types of sexual harassment students are protected from under Title IX and the rights afforded to survivors of sexual harassment. In response to the regulations, four groups filed lawsuits against the Department of Education in an attempt to stop the regulations from going into effect. Emily Young, a Feminist Majority Foundation Intern, compiled a report analyzing both the 2020 regulations and the lawsuits against them in order to spread awareness about the impact of the new regulations and the work being done to stop their implementation. The report, titled “The 2020 Title IX Regulations and the Lawsuits Against Them: An Analysis and Comparison“, provides background on why the new regulations were created and breaks down many of the changes the new regulations make to previous Title IX policy. Additionally, the report describes and compares the lawsuits brought against the new regulations in a manner that is accessible to any reader regardless of their legal background. We encourage all those interested in education equity to use this report as a resource and as inspiration to further the work of those fighting against these harmful regulations.

As others challenge the legality of OCR’s 2020 regulations, advocacy is needed to mitigate the damages of Title IX. As a result, transparency and education around Title IX and the responsibilities of Title IX Coordinators are the utmost importance. In an effort to increase general understanding around the functions of Title IX Coordinators and other Title IX officers, Alison Hagani, a Feminist Majority Foundation Intern, compiled a report analyzing the roles and responsibilities of Title IX Coordinators. This report details key elements of Title IX as it pertains to the functions of Title IX Coordinators in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, including the breadth of “actual knowledge,” reporting to Title IX, formal grievance processes, and corrective measures. This report, titled “Title IX Coordinator Roles and Responsibilities: A Guide to 2020 OCR Regulations,” will hopefully empower educational community members to better understand and thus utilize Title IX Coordinators as resources should they choose.

Slow Progress is Being Reversed

Some of the improved guidance from the Office for Civil Rights in the US Department of Education (ED) and the Civil Rights Division in the US Department of Justice was reversed in 2017 by the federal withdrawal of the 2016 guidance on the civil rights of transgender students, the 2011 guidance on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, and the 2014 guidance on preventing campus sexual assault. Many have objected to these withdrawals and the 2017 Education Department substitute interim guidance for sexual harassment and assault. Additional concerns about vigorous enforcement of all aspects of Title IX are also emerging. All rescinded guidance documents can be found here. States and other recipients of federal financial assistance are starting to incorporate them into their own laws and policies and members of Congress are proposing their restoration in new federal legislation.

Insufficient Federal Funding

Inadequate federal support and neglect has threatened the effectiveness of Title IX. This has resulted in poor understanding and implementation by educators, parents, and students. During its 45+ year history, there has been no comprehensive attention to involving all federal, state, school district and school level education agencies in paying coordinated attention to fulfilling their requirements to ensure compliance with this federal law at all levels of education from pre-school to postsecondary education. In particular, there has been relatively little attention to the appointment and training of Title IX Coordinators.

Although sporadic federal funds and resources from the US Department of Education and other agencies have been available for some aspects of Title IX, such as STEM and to help combat sexual harassment and violence, there has been little support for researchers and equity advocates to share their expertise within and across Title IX topics. Sadly, the 1974 Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA), the only federal legislation with the sole purpose of promoting full implementation of Title IX, was never adequately funded.

Although the 2010 WEEA reauthorization proposal was never introduced, many of its features have been included in the Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2016 (GEEA), or the similar Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2017 [S 1421 and HR 3828] introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono and Representative Louise Slaughter. Representative Patsy Mink was an original sponsor of Title IX and the 1974 Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA), the only federal legislation focused solely on the implementation of Title IX and gender equity in education.

GEEA will re-establish and improve federal support for Title IX by rebuilding a national infrastructure to help over 100,000 Title IX Coordinators and other equity advocates fulfill their required responsibilities to fully implement Title IX and reduce and prevent sex discrimination in all areas of education. GEEA will help coordinate and manage national activities to support Title IX by establishing an Office for Gender Equity whose director will report directly to the Secretary of Education and an Office for Gender Equity resource center website. The Office for Gender Equity would also administer competitive grants to support training, assistance, and even assessment of Title IX Coordinator support.

The bulk of the requested $80 million in annual GEEA funding would be reserved for local Title IX implementation grants to State Education Agencies, Local Education Agencies, Institutions of Higher Education, elementary or secondary schools, and partnerships with national organizations with expertise in gender equity. To foster long-lasting effectiveness and continual improvement, GEEA includes a research and development component to identify and disseminate best practices to effectively and efficiently fully implement Title IX and reduce and prevent sex discrimination and gender stereotyping in all areas of education including educational materials.

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