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Title IX's History with Sports

Title IX is a section of the federal Education Amendments of 1972.  The grassroots effort to craft and pass this law was begun in 1969 when Bernice Sandler was told that she would not be considered for a job because she was "too strong for a woman". This original concern for equal employment rights in post-secondary educational institutions inspired a law that has changed the world of sports forever. In an article, written on the occasion of Title IX's 35th anniversary, Pennepacker wrote that Title IX "still leaves school personnel scratching their heads. . . Title IX is not an opinion; it is a law and is as important as "No Child Left Behind" to ensure that there is "No Athlete Left Behind" as well."

In 1969 Sandler's job hunt continued to be frustrating. She was turned down for a second position because "women stay home with their children when they are sick" and at third position because she was "not a real professional but just a housewife who went back to school." Sandler began to investigate women's rights under existing laws. Sandler, describing herself at the time, says, "I had no legal, political or organizing experience. . ." The campaign cost only a few hundred dollars in postage but "hours and hours of time from women in academe who . . . gathered and analyzed data. . . pressed their Representative and Senators for action . . . and became advocates for change." These women, whose jobs were not protected under the law, took risks documenting discrimination against women in university admissions and employment.   

What resulted, explains Pennepacker in her article, was "Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964: the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination, including sexual harassment against students and employees in any educational institution that receives federal funds. It was designed to protect both males and females in federally funded educational programs and activities. Title IX is about a school's entire educational program from math, science, English and history to chess club, band, soccer and tennis. Title IX also covers admissions, access to courses or programs, counseling, student rules and regulations, treatment of students, athletics, cocurricular and extracurricular activities, as well as employment practices and sexual harassment of students and employees.

There was little discussion of the law's implications for sports when it was passed in 1972. Since 1972, however, the playing field has changed dramatically because of the passage of Title IX. Women's Sports Foundation summarizes the growth. "In 1970 only 1 out of every 27 high school girls played varsity sports. In 2006, that figure was one in 2.4, an increase of more than 900% from 1971. Female high school participation increased from 294,015 in 1971 to 3,021,807 in 2006. College participation has risen more than six-fold, from 31,000 participants to 205,492." 

Over the years the law and its associated regulations, policy interpretations, the Investigator's Manual and letters of clarification issued by OCR have defined the responsibilities of colleges and high schools under Title IX. There are three basic parts of Title IX as it applies to athletics. Men and women must be provided equal opportunities to participate in sports, female athletes must receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation, and there must be equal treatment in other benefits, such as equipment, facilities, schedules, and travel. In 1994 Congress passed the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act which requires schools at the college level to report on Title IX compliance information every year. A growing number of states are passing disclosure acts at the high school level.

The history of Title IX's impact on sports continues. Assuring equal opportunity is a continual process of understanding, commitment and decision making.  At the high school level it is driven by parents, athletes, and school districts firmly committed to educational equity. They recognize sports as a part of the educational environment. In Pennepacker's simple terms, "it is important to continue to support the athletic ambitions of girls and boys while not curtailing the progress of one over the other."  
(Participation statistics from publications of the Women's Sports Foundation)