As easily as discrimination can occur in the workplace, it can also occur in educational institutions. Title IX is a federal law that protects students from sex discrimination in educational programs. The law requires institutions to provide equal treatment in admissions, programs, counseling, financial aid, scholarships, insurance benefits and many other aspects of education. For more information about Title IX and what your rights are under it, read below.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination against students and employees in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This law benefits both male and females and requires that educational institutions maintain policies, practices, and programs that do not discriminate based on sex. This law provides that males and females receive fair and equal treatment in all areas of schooling including: recruitment, admissions, educational programs and activities, course offerings and access to those courses, counseling, financial aid, employment assistance, facilities and housing, health and insurance benefits, marital and parental status, scholarships, sexual harassment, and athletics.
Title IX protects any person from sex/gender-based discrimination, including students, faculty and staff; women and men; and individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.
Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may include:
- sexual assault,
- sexual imposition
- public indecency
- voyeurism, stalking
- non-disclosure of known positive HIV status or STD
- sexual exploitation
- related retaliation
- partner violence and harassment based on non-conforming to sex, or gender role stereotypes
Title IX protects students, faculty, and staff in federally funded education programs and activities applying to schools from elementary and secondary schools up to the college and university level. Title IX applies to schools that also receive federal funding or receive any type of support from any federal agency which can include private schools, correctional facilities, health entities, and unions. Currently, only two U.S. Colleges do not have to abide by Title IX: Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Grove City College Pennsylvania.
You are protected under Title IX even if you do not experience sex discrimination directly. Schools must take immediate steps to address any sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence on campus to prevent it from affecting students further. If a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination, harassment, or violence that is creating a “hostile environment” for any student, it must act to eliminate it, remedy the harm caused, and prevent its recurrence. Schools may not discourage survivors from continuing their education, such as telling them to “take time off” or forcing them to quit a team, club, or class. You have the right to remain on campus and have every educational program and opportunity available to you.
Title IX is enforced by requiring readily available information about grievance procedures to school faculty and students. Students and faculty may also file complaints of a Title IX violation with the Office for Civil Rights or through a private lawsuit. Each state has its own Title IX coordinator. The purpose of the Title IX Office is to develop, implement, and monitor campus-wide efforts to ensure compliance with Title IX legislation, and to ensure that there is a prompt and equitable process to respond to alleged complaints of sex discrimination. The Title IX Coordinator has no side during the investigation and conduct process and serves as a neutral fact-finder and resource for both the complainant and the respondent. To find your state Title IX coordinator go to: https://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm.
An institution must meet all of the following to comply with Title IX: (1) provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students; (2) demonstrate a historical and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex; or (3) fully and effective accommodate the interests and abilities of the under representative sex. Female and male student athletes must receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation and equal treatment of male and female student athletics must be carried out.
Title IX compliance is determined through a total program comparison. In other words, the entire men’s program is compared to the entire women’s program, not just one men’s team to the women’s team in the same sport. The broad comparative provision was intended to emphasize that Title IX does not require the creation of mirror image programs. Males and females can participate in different sports according to their respective interests and abilities. Thus, broad variations in the type and number of sports opportunities offered to each gender are permitted.
Schools that do not comply with Title IX may lose their federal funding. Also, the U.S. Department of Education, as well as students and their parents, may sue schools for Title IX violations.
If you have suffered sex discrimination, a school must make sure that any reasonable changes to your housing, class or sports schedule, campus job, or extracurricular activities and clubs are made to ensure that you can continue your education free from ongoing sex discrimination, harassment or sexual violence. These arrangements can occur BEFORE a formal complaint, investigation, hearing, or final decision is made regarding your complaint and may CONTINUE even after the final decision has been rendered. These accommodations may not burden complainants/victims or limit educational opportunities.
Athletic programs are considered “educational programs and activities” and are covered under Title IX. Title IX covers three areas of athletics: participation, scholarships, and other benefits.
- Participation: Men and women must be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. Title IX does not require institutions to offer identical sports but an equal opportunity to play.
- Scholarships: Male and female student-athletes are required to receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation.
- Other benefits: Title IX requires the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provision of:
- equipment and supplies
- scheduling of games and practice times
- travel and daily allowance/per diem
- access to tutoring
- coaching, locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities
- medical and training facilities and services
- housing and dining facilities and services
- publicity and promotions
- support services, and
- recruitment of student-athletes
Anyone who believes that there has been sex discrimination against any person or group may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights under Title IX. You do not need to be the victim of the alleged discrimination to file a complaint, but you do need to be affected by a general “hostile sexual environment” or complain on behalf of another. A complaint should be sent to the Office of Civil Rights enforcement office of the state where your discrimination occurred. You can find the address, email and phone number of your local OCR enforcement office at the Office for Civil Rights page on the Department of Education website.
A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination unless the filing is extended for good cause by the Enforcement Office Director. Should the individual choose to first file a potential complaint through the school’s institutional grievance process, then the Title IX complaint must be filed with the Office of Civil Rights within 60 days after the last act of the institutional grievance process.
Complaint letters should explain who was discriminated against; in what way; by whom or by what institution or agency; when the discrimination took place; who was harmed; who can be contacted for further information; the name, address and telephone number of the complainant(s) and the alleged offending institution or agency; and as much background information as possible about the alleged discriminatory act(s). You will be asked for much-identifying information, but remember that OCR keeps the identity of complainants confidential except to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of the civil rights laws, or unless disclosure is required under the Freedom of Information Act or the Privacy Act (or otherwise required by law).
You can find a pre-prepared complaint form, along with some supplementary information and advice at the Department of Education website.
Title IX Complaints may be filed through mail, an electronic submission of the pre-prepared OCR complaint form or by email (OCR@ed.gov). In either form of submission a consent form will need to be signed and included with your complaint. Any addendums to the complaint must be submitted within 20 days.
Mailed complaints may be sent to:
Office for Civil Rights
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20202-1100