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.