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Title IX turns 42 on Sunday

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POTSDAM - Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 will celebrate its 42nd birthday on Sunday. The landmark federal civil rights statute prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Written by AAUW member and then member of Congress Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and signed into law by President Nixon, the law states simply, “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 educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

While best know for the effect it has had to open the doors to women into athletic opportunities, Title IX affects all areas of education. It has made it possible for women to pursue careers as lawyers, doctors, mechanics, scientists and professional athletes.

Title IX applies to institutions receiving federal funds and addresses these important areas: access and admission to higher education, career and technical education, education for pregnant and parenting students, equity in math, science and technology (STEM) education, sexual harassment and athletics.

Title IX was designed to be a strong and comprehensive measure that would attack all forms of sex discrimination in education and, in so doing, provide educational opportunities formerly closed to women and girls. While Title IX has indeed succeeded in opening doors in the classroom and on the athletic field, inequities and barriers still remain.

Through vigorous enforcement of the law and heightened public attention to these issues, even more progress can be made to address areas where more improvement must be made. Consider the following challenges girls and women still face:

Sexual harassment remains pervasive in public schools – 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys surveyed have experienced it. 11 One in four students stated that harassment happens “often.” At a time when school-based violence is on the minds of everyone, addressing the bullying and harassing behaviors that can lead to violence should be an educational priority.

Sex segregation persists in career education, with women making up about 90 percent of the students enrolled in courses leading to traditional (and lower paying) female occupations such as cosmetology, child care, and health services.

Only 39 percent of all full-time professors at colleges and universities are women, at a time when women make up more than 50% of the student body at many institutions.

Women receive only 20 percent of computer science and engineering-related technology bachelor’s degrees in an era when the high-paying STEM employment fields are undergoing rapid expansion and the need for trained workers is high.

Pregnant and parenting students are steered towards separate and less academically rigorous schools. Only 40 percent of teen moms finish high school and less than 2 percent finish college by age 30, according to national figures.

Even though teen birth rates have declined most years for the last two decades - dropping about 25 percent just from 2007 to 2011 - these girls still face challenges: punitive absence policies, a lack of child care and transportation options, and teachers and administrators who discourage them from attending school, according to a 2012 report by the National Women’s Law Center.

Few college students say their school is doing a good job addressing campus sexual assault and harassment, according to a nationwide survey by the volunteer group, Students Active For Ending Rape. When asked to grade their school’s sexual violence policies, 9.8 percent of students gave their college an A, 40 percent gave their school a B, and 34 percent rated it with a C. The survey showed half of students gave their school a C or lower.

While Title IX requires colleges to address these issues, the survey found that 26 percent of students didn’t know if their school has a sexual assault policy. Fewer than half — 42 percent — said they were informed about their school’s policy during orientation. Many colleges and universities fail to adequately addressing campus sexual violence and often ignore students’ needs.

Women’s collegiate teams still receive only 33 percent of recruiting dollars and 36 percent of athletic operating dollars. And yet American women athletes were the stars of the 2013 Summer Olympic Games, out-medaling the men and competing - for the first time - in an equal number of Olympic venues.

AAUW staunchly supports Title IX and is believes policies and reforms that allow women and men to excel are beneficial for society as a whole. But too many women and girls still face sex discrimination in the course of their education. AAUW is committed to protecting and defending Title IX, and pursuing its vigorous enforcement, to ensure our nation’s commitment to moving toward full and equal educational opportunities for all students.

Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW. AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research.

AAUW, with its nationwide network of more than 150,000 members and supporters, more than 1,000 branches conducting programs in communities across the country, and 500 college and university partners, has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and their families since 1881.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or jball@clarkson.edu or Public Policy Chair Kathleen Stein at 386-3812, kstein1@twcny.rr.com, or visit the branch website, http://www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html.

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