Tag Archives: Education

Title IX requirements not burdensome

By Terry L. Fromson, WLP Managing Attorney

On June 19, 2013, the Northwestern Lehigh School District Board of Directors adopted a resolution that would keep basic information from parents and students about the sports programs their tax dollars support.

The resolution also revealed shocking ignorance about Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including in school athletic programs.  Resolving to support the repeal of a law adopted last year by the Pennsylvania Legislature that requires public high schools, junior highs, and middle schools to fill out a reporting form once a year showing how schools are doing in achieving gender equity in their athletic programs, the Board resolution incredulously states that “the provisions of Title IX, which is federal law, are not applicable to local school districts.”

To the contrary, Title IX applies to any educational program that receives any federal financial assistance.  There are few, if any, schools that don’t receive any federal funding.  Title IX requires our schools to provide equal athletic opportunities and treatment to girls. Adopted 41 years ago this month, Title IX required schools to become compliant within three years.  Yet, many schools have not only failed to achieve equality in their sports programs, but overall, conditions have actually worsened for girls.

Last year’s passage of the reporting law was a victory for girls who want to participate in school athletics in Pennsylvania and for their parents who expect equal opportunity for their daughters in school. It simply provides the taxpaying public with knowledge about whether their local schools are in compliance with or in violation of Title IX.   The law is not burdensome.  The information it asks schools to share is in their possession and is already reportable on a request by request basis under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.  Compiling one report each year, a task estimated to take no more than six hours, will consume less time and effort than responding to multiple requests throughout the year.  This small investment of time is more than reasonable to ensure female athletes in Pennsylvania’s schools are provided with the athletic opportunities required by law.

At this same meeting, the Northwestern Lehigh School Board voted to “move forward” with plans to seek private funding for improvements to the athletic stadium and track field at a projected cost of $2.1 million. Without more information, it cannot definitively be said whether these improvements will result in or contribute to an uneven playing field for girls in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  However, the Board should know that female student athletes must be treated equally even if private funding is used to purchase extra perks for male student athletes.

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Please also see recent commentary by Paul Carpenter of The Morning Call:  Title IX spotlights scholastic sports — for all students or just the Al Bundy types?

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Education, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX

Ms. Magazine Reports on the Women’s Law Project and Charlotte Murphy

Molly Duerig, WLP Intern

It’s been forty years since the passage of Title IX, a crucial piece of legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs.  Although we’ve come a long way, cases continue to pop up that prove we still have a good deal of work to do before we obtain gender equity.

Last month, Ms. Magazine featured a story about eleven-year-old Charlotte Murphy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte was distraught last year when her public elementary school disbanded the girls’ basketball team for a season due to lack of funding.  Then she learned that the boys’ basketball team would continue to operate as normal that season.

Charlotte was upset about the school’s decision.  However, unlike most people, she chose to speak up and call attention to the school district’s mistake.  She wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Dr. Linda Lane, explaining that her school violated Title IX and asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.  Senior Staff Attorney Susan Frietsche of the WLP Pittsburgh office prepared Charlotte for the meeting.  Charlotte’s tenacity and her collaboration with the WLP resulted in a new policy that permits elementary schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District to sponsor a boys’ basketball team only if they also sponsor one for girls. The policy also requires equal treatment for both teams.

Charlotte won her battle and is once again able to play basketball at her school.  This year, there were girls’ basketball teams at 14 elementary schools, up from 3 in previous years.  While Charlotte and her team didn’t win, she was grateful to be given the chance to play just like her male peers.  As Erin Buzuvis, Western New England University law professor and Title IX expert, explained,

If the last 40 years are any indication, Title IX’s success is due to the eternal vigilance of the law’s supporters, who continue to defend it through the political process and in the courts. This vigilance must continue in order for the law to address persistent sex discrimination, and to guard against unwarranted sex segregation.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, WLP looks forward to future successes for gender equity.  We congratulate Charlotte Murphy for her spirited advocacy!

Visit our website to see a video of Charlotte discussing why she chose to speak up and why she thinks Title IX is so important.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Pittsburgh, Title IX

Hillary Clinton Launches the Women in Public Service Project

Molly Duerig, WLP Intern

Monday, June 11th, marked the official launch of the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP), a program created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that aims to mentor emerging female leaders from all over the world in public policy and social justice.

 Forty-nine women from 21 different countries were selected through an application process to participate in the project. WPSP kicked off its first annual two-week series of intensive seminars, which will focus on how women can successfully lead and influence the governments and societies in which they live. Participants will also have the opportunity to network with global political leaders.

 The project is sponsored by The U.S State Department and the five remaining “Seven-Sister” schools, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Smith, and Mount Holyoke. The first summer institute will take place at Wellesley College, which is the alma mater of both Clinton and Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State.  The other sponsoring colleges, all leading liberal arts colleges, will host the event in the future.

Clinton’s ambitious project will further the pro-women initiative President Obama undertook when he issued the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security this past December. The Women’s Media Center explained that NAP mandated increased participation of women in the negotiation of peace treaties, as well as a promotion of women’s role in conflict prevention. This program is one that was greatly needed: only 8% of all peace treaties negotiated during the last several years involved women at all.

Furthermore, as State Department ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues Melanne Verveer pointed out, almost half of all peace agreements negotiated during the 1990s failed within five years of their passage. “Peace won’t happen if we leave out half of those who are affected by conflict and will benefit from peace,” said Verveer in support of the NAP.

Her sentiment, crucial to the birth of the WPSP, is shared by many leaders urging increased participation by women in politics. As women continue to be underrepresented in politics, we fail to hear the opinion of half of the population. This leads to a plethora of problems, including imbalanced decisions and a narrow range of expertise and perspective.

Gender equality efforts are underway worldwide. Newly-elected French president Francois Hollande appointed an equal number of women and men to the country’s 34-member cabinet for the first time in history .

Clinton’s hopes are that the WPSP will help this trend to continue on an international level. The project’s ultimate goal is for at least 50% of the world’s elected leaders to be women by the year 2050. Currently, that number is at only 17.5%. According to a Women’s Media Center article, the proportion of women to men in the U.S Congress is only 17%, even lower than the international average of 20% of parliamentary seats held by women. Clinton was quoted as saying she was embarrassed by this statistic. She also stated that, “The World Bank has found that women tend to invest more of their earnings in their families and communities than men do,” adding that “those are the kinds of instincts and priorities we would all like to see” at the government level.

If half of a society’s population fails to have proper representation in politics, the desires and goals of that society cannot be properly met. The WPSP aims to broaden the range of perspectives at the political forefront to include more women, as well as give women the resources and contacts to become effective leaders. Here at the Women’s Law Project, we support and applaud this endeavor. This is a bold and innovative approach to international policy that aims to drastically alter global leadership.

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Filed under Democracy, Education, Events, Gender Discrimination, Government, Women Leaders

Report Released on the 40th Anniversary of Title IX

Nikki Ditto, WLP Intern

As a member of The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), the Women’s Law Project is pleased to share NCWGE’s report celebrating Title IX’s 40th anniversary.  NCWGE is a non-profit made up of over 50 organizations dedicated to ensuring equality in education. The report gives a comprehensive look at all that has been accomplished since Title IX was adopted and all that remains to be done. The goal of the report is to “help give educators, parents, students, and lawmakers a better understanding of Title IX’s impact and challenges that remain in many areas of education.”

The report covers Title IX’s role in school athletics, as well as other crucial issues. It outlines six main areas that the act affects and impacts including “athletics; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); career and techni­cal education; sexual harassment; single-sex education; and the rights of pregnant and parenting students.” The report offers an analysis of the change that has occurred in each area over the last 40 years, and also provides suggestions and solutions for addressing the equality gaps that remain.

Title IX was passed as a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972. It states that,

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.

Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics. It has helped to open doors for female athletes to equal participation opportunities and to equal treatment of male and female teams. However, its reach and importance extends far beyond sports. Title IX impacts the education system as a whole and is meant to ensure equality in all areas of education.

The report found that while much has improved in terms of gender equity in education since 1972, much of Title IX is not fully implemented or enforced.  For example, pregnant and parenting students still struggle to have full and equal access to education, and their needs are often ignored (pg.55). Girls are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields (17). Sexual harassment is still prevalent across all grade levels, and often keeps students from fully participating in school (37). Many public schools still have sex-segregated classrooms based on faulty scientific research and stereotypes (47) Thankfully, Title IX provides students with a legal basis for challenging the inequalities they continue to face.

The Women’s Law Project has played a role in helping to enforce Title IX throughout the state of Pennsylvania. We supported more stringent and regulated handling of sexual assault cases at Penn State. We have also worked against discriminatory single-sex programs and schools in order to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for children. The WLP has fought for the rights of female students and athletes in a number of cases thanks to the passage of Title IX.

Through this report, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education “seeks to inform the continued search for policies that will promote equal educational opportunity in all of these areas,” (2). The report lays out what must be done to establish truly equal access and to continue to improve the situation for women and girls in schools across the country. NCWGE suggests five overarching areas that must be addressed, including “awareness, enforcement, transparency, coordination, and funding” (6), as well as policy changes that effect each area of interest.

On the 40th anniversary of Title IX, it is important to recognize the ways in which Title IX has shaped the last 40 years and how it can be better implemented in the future. Title IX’s passage did not change the world or America’s public education system overnight, and there is still work to be done. We are happy to celebrate this anniversary by looking at how we can continue to make public schools more equal for all students.

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Filed under Education, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Single-Sex Schools, Title IX, Uncategorized

ACLU Launches “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” Campaign

Liz Weissert, WLP Intern

In May 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced the launch of their “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” Campaign. To initiate this campaign, the ACLU sent letters to various public school districts across the United States including Florida, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama demanding that they “end single-sex programs that rely on and promote archaic and harmful sex stereotypes.”  In addition to sending these letters, the ACLU is investigating single-sex schooling programs in Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, Indiana, Idaho, and Illinois through the filing of public record requests. The ACLU states that, “single-sex programs are not only unfair; in many cases they are illegal.”

Single-sex education programs often rest on the misguided notion that boys and girls are neurologically different and thus have different learning styles.  There is no scientific basis for this theory, which rests on stereotypes about boys and girls. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) found in their recent report Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education that “many single-sex programs claiming a basis in research are in fact based on claims that amount to little more than repackaged sex stereotypes.” The NCWGE further concludes that “despite assertions to the contrary, separating students by sex has not been proven to improve educational outcomes.”

Indeed sex-segregation itself perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes.  In a Washington Post article, “The Case Against Single-Sex Schooling”, Rebecca Bigler and Lise Eliot discuss the harmful effects of some single-sex schooling programs:

Gender segregated classrooms are detrimental to children in several ways. First, research in developmental psychology has clearly shown that teachers’ labeling and segregating of social groups increases children’s stereotyping and prejudice. […] Classroom assignment based on gender teaches children that males and females have different types of intellects, and reinforces sexism in schools and the culture at large

The NCWGE report includes a full chapter on single-sex education which explores the “potentially harmful” aspects of single-sex education based on gender stereotypes. These single-sex classrooms can be detrimental to the learning of all students. As the NCWGE explains, “assuming, for instance, that boys need active, loud environments focused on abstract thinking skills and girls need quiet activities that emphasize concrete thinking makes it less likely that the classroom will meet the varying learning needs of all students.”

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) has long been involved in challenging unlawful single-sex education in Pennsylvania public schools.  In 1983, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), WLP accomplished the admission of girls to Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School, which had long been an all-boys school. Most recently in 2011, WLP, again with the ACLU-PA, successfully opposed Pittsburgh Public Schools’ experimentation with gender-segregated schooling at Westinghouse Academy. WLP joined an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief filed in a lawsuit challenging the implementation of single-sex classrooms in a Louisiana school district, in concert with the Education Law Center, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and the ACLU-PA opposing the creation of a boys’ charter school in the Philadelphia School District, and objecting to the Philadelphia School District’s conversion of neighborhood schools in North Philadelphia to single sex schools.  

More information on the Women’s Law Project’s activities concerning single-sex schooling and gender discrimination in education can be found on our website.


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Filed under Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Single-Sex Schools, Title IX, Uncategorized

Female Stereotype Threat Hurts Women, Economy

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Wingfield, Former WLP Intern

In an article for WeNews, Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers demonstrate that girls still internalize stereotypes about female performance in math and science, making them less likely to pursue careers in those fields. While the percentage of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers is rising, according to Barnett and Rivers girls need to hear earlier that there are no innate gender differences in math and science if we want to eradicate stereotype threat (“that confidence-killing burden of anxiety”) and therefore see more women  in STEM careers.

Barnett and Rivers report that a 2009 study found “that middle school girls did less well on a math test when told that boys generally did better in math than girls. Even girls who denied they held a belief in girls’ inferiority did poorly. Without the negative information, they score nearly as well as men.” Girls have proven their ability to compete with their male counterparts by taking the top prizes at Google’s first science fair and taking roughly the same number of math and science courses in middle and high school as boys. However, girls still hold a disproportionately low percentage of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering. Even those women who do hold undergraduate STEM degrees are less likely to work in a STEM career than their male counterparts. Barnett and Rivers blame stereotype threat for this disparity.

The lack of women in STEM occupations is a “brain drain” that the US cannot afford. According to “Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary of the Commerce Department…the lack of women in STEM is harming U.S. ability to compete in the global innovation marketplace.” But, “fortunately…a team led by psychologist Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington discovered that although girls in the early grades see math largely as a male preserve, they haven’t yet made the connection that ‘because I am a girl, math is not for me.’” These findings suggest that if girls are assured early enough that they are not innately worse at math because of their sex that they will be more likely to pursue jobs in STEM fields later on since they will be less likely to suffer from stereotype threat.

You can read the entire article here.

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Filed under Education, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sexism

Undergraduate Women Face Discrimination, Fewer Leadership Opportunities

In March 2011, the Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership at Princeton University found  that “there are differences—subtle but real—between the ways most Princeton female undergraduates and most male undergraduates approach their college years, and in the ways they navigate Princeton when they arrive.” The Committee also saw that their findings seem to be indicative of broader trends at undergraduate universities—“Through the work of our subcommittee on comparative data, we learned that many of the patterns we observed at Princeton are common on other campuses.”

One important difference that the Committee found was that women are less likely to run for elected positions for a variety of reasons. Some undergraduates who were interviewed said that they chose not to run for a traditional elected position because they doubted how much change they could affect in that position whereas some were just intimidated by the public visibility that is involved in a campaign for elective office. However, there were also “women who do consider running for visible campus posts, especially a presidency [but don’t run since they] get the message from peers that such posts are more appropriately sought by men.”

Sexism that prevents women from running for leadership positions on college campuses is not just external. The Committee found that internalized sexism also plays a role. “Female undergraduates may say that they do not have the skills or experience to run for a highly visible post, that others (usually men) are better qualified. Even women who are regarded as strong leaders by their peers and faculty and staff members may not see themselves in such a light.” For this reason, women are more likely to need encouragement in order to reach their potential. Whereas “men are more likely to consider themselves plausible candidates for office or prizes and step forward without special encouragement; women often report that such encouragement led them to take the steps that produced significant achievements.”

Of course, gender discrimination does not affect undergraduate women only around issues of leadership. While “male undergraduates may also feel pressures to conform to a certain set of campus norms… the pressures seem to be especially marked for women.” Undergraduate women at Princeton “sometimes feel that they are expected to measure up to an impossible standard. They are supposed to be smart, involved in many different activities (as are men), and also ‘pretty, sexy, thin, nice, and friendly,’ as one undergraduate reported.”

You can read the entire report here. You can stay updated on various efforts to make campuses a better environment for women at the Feministing Campus page.

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Filed under Education, Equality, Sex Discrimination, Sexism