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Gender Discrimination in Education

Sex discrimination occurs when a person is treated unequally due to their sex, the biological factor of being female or male. Gender discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfavorably due to social behavior such as the nonconformance of gender roles (which may be related to someone's sexual orientation). The terms are often used interchangeably; and for purposes of anti-discrimination and civil rights law, that use is more likely accurate than not.

For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined that discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses gender discrimination, including sexual orientation discrimination. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education enforces Title IX violations, but it is still relevant to this subject area because gender discrimination in education under Title IX includes not only traditional sex-based discrimination, but also sexual harassment and sexual assault violations.

Gender Discrimination in Education and Title IX

The section Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX) is a federal law that states:

"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 applies to all educational institutions, both public and private, that receive federal funds. Virtually all private colleges and universities must comply with Title IX regulations because they receive federal funding through federal financial aid programs used by their students. Title IX applies to every aspect of education including:

  • Financial assistance
  • Course offerings
  • Counseling and counseling materials
  • Student health insurance benefits
  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Physical Education
  • Athletics

To comply with Title IX's participation requirement, an institution must meet one of the following three tests:

  1. Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportional to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time students.
  2. Demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex.
  3. Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

Athletic Equity in Education

Although Title IX applies to every aspect of education, a lot of publicity centers on athletic programs because Title IX has been influential in creating more opportunities for women and girls in both competitive athletics and informal recreation.

There are three components of Title IX applicable to athletics. They are:

  1. Participation: Title IX mandates that women and men have equal opportunities to participate in sports, but does not require identical sports programs for women and men.
  2. Scholarships: Title IX mandates that female and male student-athletes receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and
  3. Other benefits: Title IX mandates equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical training and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.

Gender Discrimination in Education: Sexual Harassment

Under Title IX, gender discrimination can include sexual harassment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an institution may be held legally responsible when the institution has notice and ignores the harassment and may have to pay monetary damages to the victim if the victim can show that the institution acted with "deliberate indifference to known acts of harassments in its programs or activities." The harassment can occur at school or off-campus. The harasser can be a teacher, other school employee, or another student.

The law is concerned with the atmosphere of a hostile environment that interferes with the student's opportunities and not with mere incidents of occasional bullying. Bullying (including cyber bullying) is a serious issue and if it rises to creating a hostile environment, then it is a Title IX violation. Many states have anti-bullying laws which would provide additional protection.

Sexual Assault and Rape in Education

Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual assault and rape. Regardless of whether there is police involvement, the school is required to adequately address sexual violence incidents. To comply with the Act, school must do the following:

  • Designate a Title IX Coordinator who has the power to adjudicate Title IX assault claim
  • Train the coordinator, staff, and students about relevant topics such as consent, healthy relationships, counseling, medical help, and other services
  • Implement complaint procedures- Schools must inform their population about how to and where to file complaints, and this information must be accessible and the same for everyone.

Consult an Attorney about your Gender Discrimination Claim

Gender discrimination in education, whether it is high school or university, is unfair and illegal. Has a hostile environment limited your ability to participate in a school activity or program? Are you a student who has been treated differently due to pregnancy? If you have had these types of experiences, then you might have a gender discrimination claim. Learn more about your rights by talking to an attorney who specializes in discrimination law.

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