Tag Archives: Equality

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

Women’s rights fight has moved to state level

Op-Ed  by Kate Michelman and Carol Tracy, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, December 9, 2012

That Mitt Romney was stunned by his defeat says much about his and others’ blindness to the divergent forces that carried Barack Obama to victory.

Imagine the bitter truths they must confront as the nature of the electorate becomes clear. The demographic realities that shaped the victory gave joy to those of us who have been ignored, belittled, and targeted by the conservative right. The very women, youth, people of color, gays and lesbians they assumed to be at the margins of national politics had their revenge. And, yes, we voted for “liberal” causes, obvious rights that have been denied for too long by the people who saw the country through out- of- date lenses.

Women, in particular, claimed our rights in bold print. More women turned out to vote than men. We were the largest deciding block in Obama’s victory (11 points over Romney). We left absolutely no doubt that we demand and deserve equal rights: equal pay, an end to pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment, better family health care, paid leave, and broad access to contraception. At t he t op of t he list: Government should have no part in a woman’s reproductive decisions. Choice. It’s what most women demand for all women. An exit poll revealed that Americans believe abortion should be legal, 59 percent to 36 percent.

We had a great day. We won a solid and lasting protection against discrimination and political harassment. The national vote said it all.

Wrong.

The national vote, while worthy of high-fives all round, is hardly the end of our struggle for women’s rights. When conservatives lose a decisive battle at the federal level, they redouble their efforts at the state and local levels. And they’ve already made that clear in Ohio. A few days after the election the legislature defunded Planned Parenthood.

Facing vetoes from the White House and having no hope of stacking the Supreme Court, pro-life advocates will become much more aggressive at the state levels. Their targets: governors (30 Republicans), Republican-controlled legislatures, and local governments and institutions, including hospital boards, PTAs, even library boards. They are particularly focused on judicial appointments.

Women showed our force in checking the war on women. But don’t be deceived; the war goes on. Only the battlefields change.

Consider some of their recent legislative gains across the nation. Parental disclosure. Ultrasound tests. Showing a woman the X-rays of her unborn. Preprocedure lectures. Shutting down clinics by needlessly raising architectural standards. Forcing women farther afield to find a clinic. The list goes on.

Extreme conservatives can’t roll back Roe v. Wade, but they can and will try to crawl beneath the radar of broad publicity with seemingly innocuous ways to shame us, to deny our rights and our equality. They will count on our satisfaction in winning the White House to soon give way to apathy. To ignore their zeal is to risk forfeiting our hard-fought gains.

To exercise their power in ways that affect their lives and health, women must educate themselves about the values and policy views of decision-makers at every level. In many cases, the decisions that have the biggest impact are made by officials who often don’t attract much attention.

The country is served well by national organizations, but today the greater need is at the state and local levels — to make effective use of traditional and social media and grassroots efforts to profile candidates and encourage women to be aware, to choose, and to vote.

The best of these information groups include both Republicans and Democrats. They may or may not endorse candidates. Their objective is to keep vigilance over all manner of issues affecting women in that state, to share solid information, and to demand accountability from those who threaten our rights.

The only way women will continue our advance toward equality and privacy is to be aware — to take the time not just to understand the forces trying to take back our recent gains, but to make the time to fight back.

Kate Michelman is co-chair of WomenVote PA, president emerita of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and author of “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.”

Carol E. Tracy is co-chair of WomenVote PA, an initiative of the Women’s Law Project, and Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.

 

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Filed under 2012 Election, Abortion Access, Contraception, Equality, Reproductive Rights, Women's health, WomenVote PA

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

Victory for Women’s Athletic Equity: PA High School Disclosure Bill Passes

During the closing hours of last week’s state budget frenzy, 40 years after the enactment of Title IX, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed its own landmark legislation to advance gender equality in educational opportunities. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Bill passed the state House of Representatives on June 30 as part of an omnibus school code bill (HB 1901) which the Governor has approved. This provision, strongly supported by the Women’s Law Project and many other advocates for women’s equality, including the Women & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, will require all public high schools, middle schools, and junior high schools in Pennsylvania to report annually the number of athletic opportunities they provide to girls and boys, broken down further by race/ethnicity, as well as other data that may reflect the quality of the athletic programming offered. Pennsylvania will join Kentucky, Georgia, and New Mexico in requiring secondary schools to disclose basic information that will help inform students, parents, and community members of whether their schools may be in violation of Title IX.

Since Title IX was enacted in 1972, the number of girls participating in interscholastic high school athletics has increased significantly. However, a large gap remains between the number of high school girls and the number of high school boys playing competitive sports. In recent years, this gap has widened. There are now approximately 1.3 million more boys than girls participating in high school sports. This imbalance is greatest in urban schools, where 73% of the boys but only 45% of the girls in grades 3-12 are involved in athletics, a disparity that affects girls of color most significantly. And even where girls have the opportunity to play, in many districts, they receive inferior equipment, uniforms, fields, facilities, coaching, publicity, scheduling, and transportation compared to the boys.

Currently, female students who suspect that their school’s athletic program is treating  them unfairly must either confront school officials before they have all the facts, or file a Right-To-Know request, which can sometimes lead to administrative battles and time-consuming appeals. Beginning in 2013, Pennsylvanians will only have to visit the Department of Education’s website to obtain the basic information that is key to grassroots reform efforts.

At stake is far more than just the fun and friendship that team sports create. Participation in organized sports improves leadership skills, opens doors for college scholarships, and correlates with better grades, a better chance of graduating and getting a job, and lower rates of depression, drug and alcohol use, smoking, teen pregnancy, and obesity. In fact, over 80% of female executives report that they played a team sport in their youth.

For more information on athletic inequalities in Pennsylvania, see WLP’s publication:  Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012);  2009-2010 Title IX Audit of the Pittsburgh Public Schools ;  Are Schools Giving Female Athletes a Sporting Chance? A Guide to Gender Equity in Athletics in Pennsylvania Schools (2009); and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? (2005)

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Filed under Athletic Equity, PA Legislature, 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