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Title IX — It’s More Than Sports

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March 19, 2012

Last week, I was doing my annual, intensive, last-minute regimen of researching the teams that have made it to the NCAA basketball tournament, so that I could bolster my otherwise limited knowledge of basketball and eventually create an unbreakable bracket winning the glory and tens of dollars at stake in the betting pool with friends. I found myself on, and saw some good news — the sports network is planning a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX , just like the ACLU!

Carol Stiff, a Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions at ESPN, introduces the celebration by saying “It’s so important that we celebrate this anniversary because it means more than what we’re doing in college athletics and the professional world of women’s sports.”

And she’s right. While Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics — which has undoubtedly been revolutionary — the purpose of the statute was much broader. Although the impact of Title IX has perhaps been most visible in the tremendous increase in women’s participation in athletics, by opening educational opportunities that were previously closed to women, the law has also contributed to revolutionary change in women’s entry in unprecedented numbers into all areas of society. And although most people may not be aware of it, the law contains guarantees of equality for women and girls in other areas of education beyond athletics that remain critical.

So this week, as part of Women’s History Month, ACLU staff across the country will participate in a blog series about Title IX highlighting some of the core areas of educational equality that this landmark statute covers.

First a quick primer on Title IX for the uninitiated: Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including on the basis of sex stereotypes, in education programs and activities that utilize federal funds. Title IX benefits both boys and girls and is the lynchpin of 40 years of efforts to promote and establish gender equity in schools. The ACLU advocates for educational equality under Title IX in four key areas: sex-segregation and sex stereotypes in education, pregnant and parenting teens’ rights, gender-based violence, and athletics.

This week you will see new blog posts on each of these topics. You’ll read about: an ACLU client in Texas who was raped in school by a fellow student and then told by school administrators to “work it out” with her attacker; one of the brave women who helped integrate an all-boys technical school in Chicago in the 1970s and the challenges she faced in breaking through the gender wall; and the barriers pregnant and parenting teens face in completing their educations. And because we can’t, of course, forget about sports — especially during March Madness — you’ll also read about some recent victories for equality in athletics, and some of the hurdles we still have to overcome.

From now until the official 40th anniversary of Title IX, June 23, the ACLU and our affiliates will be highlighting the people, events and legal efforts that have shaped and continue to shape educational equality. This blog series is just a part of that endeavor. We hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more.

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