Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational institutions, mainly covering the equal treatment in athletics, sexual harassment cases, and protection for transgender and gender-nonconforming students. Signed into law on June 23, 1973, by President Richard Nixon, Title IX remains of the bills that have undergone the most changes.
Title IX followed the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation and prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in employment. It did not, however, prevent discrimination based on sex in educational programs, including athletics, so Title IX was extended to any educational program or activity receiving federal funds/assistance.
In 1971, the ratio of male athletes to female athletes in high school sports was 12.5 to 1. It was originally enacted to provide equal opportunities for female athletes, and successfully increased the number of female athletes in high school from 295,000 to more than 2.6 million. One of the pioneers of the enactment of Title IX is Billie Jean King, a former world No. 1 tennis player. After advocating for women’s sports in the 1960s and 1970s, King founded the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation to pursue equality in athletics. King also testified for Title IX and continuously worked to pass it.
The Alexander v. Yale case in 1977 was the first case with Title IX used to protect against gender-based sexual harassment in an educational institution. The five Yale College students who appealed did not win the case, but they succeeded in getting Yale to institute a grievance procedure for students who were sexually harassed. The case was one of the marking points for the advancement of Title IX to protect against sexual harassment and extended its reach beyond equality in athletics.
After Alexander v. Yale, the deadline for high schools and colleges to follow Title IX athletics requirements was July 21, 1978. This included regulations for equal coaching, equipment, and support services for male and female teams, as well as financial assistance being available proportionally to male and female athletes.
Although much later, Title IX is now recognized for its protection of transgender and gender-nonconforming students as well. On May 13, 2016, the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice issued guidance about supporting and protecting transgender students with Title IX. Compliance with Title IX entailed equal access to educational programs for transgender students and treating students consistent with their gender identity. However, this guidance was rescinded on Feb. 22, 2017.
Most recently, President Joe Biden enacted Executive Order 13988 on Jan. 20, 2021, saying “It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” President Biden also released Executive Order 14021 to guarantee “an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex” on March 8, 2021. These executive orders mainly resulted as changes to Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ Title IX rules in 2020, which led to significant controversy.
The history of Title IX does not end here; it will continue to face development and change. However, Title IX still impacts educational institutions today and remains a civil rights law with many aspects to cover.