Kamala Harris is a U.S. Senator representing the state of California. The views expressed are her own.
Signed 45 years ago, Title IX stated: “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal assistance.” Its enactment transformed educational opportunities for women. So today – on its 45th birthday — I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about its history and why protecting it is critical to our civil rights. Here’s what you need to know:
1.) We should all thank Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink. Not only was she the first Asian-American woman and the first woman of color elected to Congress, she also co-authored Title IX, which barred sex discrimination in any school that accepted federal funds. She wouldn’t live to see it, but as a result of Title IX, women’s college enrollment would triple and their participation in sports would increase ten-fold. We owe her a lot.
2.) It’s best known for changing the game for women athletes. Title IX has opened up the opportunity for millions of girls to play sports. In 1974, fewer than 300,000 girls played high school sports. Today, there are more than 3 million female student athletes. Turns out, girls wanted to play, too.
3.) It’s about more than sports. The law prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of education. This includes everything from discrimination against women in STEM programs to students who are pregnant or parenting.
4.) It addresses sexual harassment and sexual violence. Among other things, Title IX means your school must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Your school also must take immediate action to ensure a survivor of sexual violence can continue their education free of ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence.
5.) It’s under attack by the Trump Administration & we need to fight back. When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was undergoing confirmation hearings in front of the U.S. Senate, she was asked questions about Title IX and she refused to answer. This is particularly troubling when you consider that Secretary DeVos has contributed to organizations who favored rolling back Title IX protections in the past.
We need to make our voices heard on this issue. It’s a matter of civil rights.