Happy Birthday, Title IX!

This week, our nation celebrates 40 powerful years of Title IX, the federal law most famous for increasing female access to school athletic programs.  Although the landmark law has certainly impacted school sports, the reach of Title IX is vast:  it mandates gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding.

Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, and 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.  Agencies covered by the law include approximately 16,000 local school districts, 3,200 colleges and universities, and 5,000 for-profit schools as well as libraries and museums.

Today, June 20th, the White House Council on Women and Girls will host an event to celebrate the legislation and discuss its impact and future.   Participants will include:

-        Keynote speaker Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls,

-        Former United States Senator Birch Bayh, who introduced Title IX in Congress,

-        Laurel J. Richie, President of the WNBA, and

-        U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

What does this have to do with street harassment?

Title IX has paved the way for organizations working for gender equality.  For example, take a look at the achievements of Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an amazing Brooklyn-based coalition-building and youth development organization which recently celebrated its 10th year of promoting the well-being of girls and women.  One of GGE’s first activities was the creation of Gender Respect Groups for students, which addressed the goals of Title IX and aimed to help girls and boys understand gender equity in an educational setting.  GGE workers soon noticed that sexual harassment was a concern for most of the students, many of whom were all too familiar with being harassed at school and elsewhere.  Ultimately, GGE and its youth activists filmed “Hey…Shorty!,” a documentary about street harassment (also check out GGE’s book, “Hey…Shorty! A guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets,” by Joanne Smith, Meghan Huppuch, and Mandy Van Deven).   The video was presented at a street harassment summit, which also included the screening of Maggie Hadleigh-West’s “War Zone,” another documentary film addressing street harassment.  Several organizations dedicated to ending street harassment—including Hollaback NYC!—joined forces at the summit, facilitating workshops and furthering the discussion on how we can all work towards achieving respectful, safe public spaces with gender equity.

For more information about Title IX:

United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Title IX and Sex Discrimination, available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html

National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, Fast Facts, Title IX, available at http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=93

National Organization for Women, Title IX and Education, available at http://www.now.org/issues/title_ix/index.html

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