Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 turns 40 years old today. It is a 37-word law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions (k-12 and college) in the USA. Because of the negative impact sexual harassment has on students and the way it limits their ability to fully access an education, sexual harassment is prohibited by Title IX and that law is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights. (Here’s a “Know Your Rights” document from the ACLU on this topic.)
Last fall in my day job, I co-authored a research report on sexual harassment in grades 7-12 in the USA. Nearly one in two students had been harassed during the previous school year, more girls than boys and more girls experienced physical forms of it.
Unfortunately, the way the case law has gone, unless schools know that sexual harassment is occurring, they are not liable for taking care of it and so we see A LOT of schools blatantly ignore it so that they don’t have to do anything. Schools are supposed to have Title IX Coordinators to talk to students about their rights and handle complaints, but most schools neglect to do this too, or only have the Coordinators handle sports-related discrimination.
So most schools need to do a LOT better at doing prevention and enforcement work to keep their schools harassment-free.
That said, the fact that there is a federal law that should help students is much better than if there were no law…and it sets an example for what we want to see happen in the streets. We want sexual harassment to be prohibited everywhere because, just as it has negative impacts on students, it has negative impacts on the people who experience it in public places.
Girls for Gender Equity in NYC just celebrated their 10-year anniversary as an organization and I highly recommend checking out their work because they have programs and efforts in place to address BOTH the sexual harassment that happens in schools and in the streets. Their book Hey Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets is a very useful read.Share on Facebook