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AAUW: Support house bill strengthening Title IX

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972. This public law states;

“No Person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

What is the history of Title IX?

Before Title IX there was an executive order issued in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson forbidding discrimination in federal contracts. President Johnson and members of congress had been lobbied by the National Organization of Women (NOW) to include the addition of women.

The order required all entities receiving federal contracts to end discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring and employment. Dr. Bernice Sandler (godmother of Title IX recently died at the age of 90) used this order to retain her job and tenure at the University of Maryland.

Later she filed a formal complaint to the Department of Labor’s Office for Federal Fair Contracts Compliance. She worked with NOW and the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) to file more complaints against other colleges and universities totally 269 complaints.

In 1970, Sandler joined Oregon’s U.S. House Representative Edith Green’s subcommittee on Higher Education of the Education and Labor Committee. In these hearings, Green and Sandler initially proposed the idea of Title IX.

An early legislative draft was then authored by Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii with the assistance of Green. It was finally brought to Congress by Senator Birch Bayh who recently died at the age of 91.

Since Title IX applies to all educational programs and all aspects of a school’s educational system, it also requires schools to respond to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence. A letter, referred to as the “Dear Colleague Letter” was written by the Department of Education in April 2011, stating that it is the responsibility of institutions of higher education “to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

What are the Title IX changes proposed by the Department of Education?

The U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos started talking about making changes to Title IX regulations in the fall of 2017. The changes to the regulations governing how colleges handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault were finally published and public comment was solicited in November of 2018. That public comment period has closed.

The U.S. Department of Education received over 100,000 comments. The department will now take that public input and issue the new regulations.

Major Changes are as follows:

  • A narrower definition of sexual harassment includes “Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”
  • Schools can now choose to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard or the “clear and convincing” higher standard when adjudicating sexual assault cases.
  • Institutions would only be responsible when a formal complaint is made to “a person who has the authority to issue corrective measures” such as the Title IX Coordinator or a school official.
  • Institutions are not responsible for making investigations of off-campus incidents unless the incident occurred at a campus sponsored activity.
  • Higher education institutions must hold live hearings and offer the option of an in-person cross examination of the victim and accused through a third party.

What can you do to support Title IX?

Contact your local representatives and ask them to support HB2562 which will increase the funding and staffing resources for compliance and enforcement of Title IX. HB2562 will increase the current Oregon Department of Education (ODE) 1/4 Full Time Employee (FTE) to 2 FTEs responsible for the Title IX enforcement/compliance/prevention of gender-based discrimination in K-12 schools statewide. This increase in staffing will also allow for the training and guidance from ODE of the Title IX coordinator that each school is required to have.

AAUW is the lead advocate of HB2562 along with 25 coalition partners.

District 3 Senator Jeff Golden 541-843-0720 or 503-986-1703

District 5 Representative Pam Marsh 503-986-1405

Regina Ayars is a member of AAUW Ashland (http://ashland-or.aauw.net/)