Title IX Remedies and Criticisms
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed October 11, 2023
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law. 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."
In simpler terms, it means that schools and colleges receiving money from the government cannot treat students differently just because of their gender. This applies not only to gender identity but sexual orientation, too. Title IX was a response by Congress to persistent sex discrimination in educational programs.
While most people would agree that gender discrimination has no place in an educational environment or anywhere else, there is some disagreement over Title IX. This piece looks at the various remedies available under Title IX. It also explores the most common criticisms of the law's application.
See FindLaw's Discrimination at School section for more related articles and resources.
How Title IX Relates to Title VII
Title IX and Title VII are essential tools in the fight for fairness. Both are parts of U.S. laws in the United States Code (U.S.C.) that strive for nondiscrimination. Title IX focuses on education, while Title VII focuses on the workplace. They both aim to give everyone equal opportunities regardless of their gender.
The purpose of Title IX is to ensure everyone gets treated the same in school. This includes students from elementary school through high school. It also includes students in higher education. It ensures that your gender does not limit your chances to learn and succeed. Title IX also covers sexual harassment. This includes protections from quid pro quo situations. Quid pro quo harassment is when someone offers something in exchange for sexual favors.
If there is a violation of Title IX, there are serious consequences for the school. The U.S. Department of Education, through its Office for Civil Rights (OCR), can step in. The department can take away the school's money from the federal government. This money is vital for many schools' functioning, so it is a severe consequence. Every school district or postsecondary institution that gets federal money must have a Title IX coordinator. This person's job is to make sure the school follows Title IX.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is another powerful tool in our civil rights laws. It is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unlike Title IX, which focuses on schools, Title VII is about the workplace. It is illegal to discriminate based on sex, race, or color. It also makes it illegal to discriminate based on national origin or religion in the workplace. Just like Title IX, the federal government can step in when someone breaks Title VII. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can take employers to federal court.
Remedies for Title IX
Title IX protections are broad and cover much ground. They ensure that girls and boys have equal opportunities to learn and participate in school activities. Title IX does more than ensure gender identity in sports. It addresses sexual harassment and sexual violence, which include sexual assault and sexual misconduct. It also protects against a hostile environment on campus, where someone feels unsafe because of sex discrimination or harassment.
The OCR is one of many sources of enforcement for Title IX. If someone believes they are a victim of sex discrimination at school, they can file a complaint. This person is called the complainant, and they are accusing the respondent. The grievance process begins with the complaint. The school follows grievance procedures, which often include a live hearing. A decision-maker will hear the evidence from both sides. The decision-maker will then decide if a preponderance of the evidence shows that the respondent broke Title IX rules.
A plaintiff filing a Title IX claim typically will not recover compensatory damages, unless they offer evidence that the discrimination was willful, deliberate, or intentional. Injunctive relief is usually sought in Title IX actions, such as an order compelling a school or university to cease an offending practice or take specific action to level the playing field.
Prevailing Title IX plaintiffs may also recover attorney and expert witness fees. Additionally, when the Title IX defendant is a state government, plaintiffs may pursue remedies (including punitive damages) available under the Civil Rights Act.
The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by state actors. Parties unhappy with a federal agency's decision in a Title IX claim generally may appeal that decision to a federal district court. However, if the agency's decision involves withdrawing financial assistance upon a finding of noncompliance with a Title IX requirement, then judicial review may be pursued.
Title IX does not contain a statute of limitations. Hence, administrative agencies and judicial bodies rely on the most analogous statute of limitations provided by the law of the state where the discrimination complaint originated.
Criticisms of Title IX
Title IX has done a lot of good, but there are criticisms, too. Some people argue that it does not do enough to protect victims of sexual violence. Others argue that the grievance process is unfair to the respondent. They say the respondent does not get enough due process protection during the hearing procedure and process.
Another criticism involves the interpretation of Title IX. Title IX's interpretation has changed over time through guidance documents from the OCR and court decisions, including decisions by the Supreme Court. This creates uncertainty for educational institutions about how to follow the law. Critics argue that the law is not clear. For instance, how it handles "actual knowledge" of a violation has seen different interpretations under the Trump administration and Biden administration.
Also, Title IX only applies to educational programs receiving federal financial assistance. It does not cover private schools that do not get federal funding. Some critics say that all students, no matter their school, should have the same protections against sex discrimination.
Advocacy for Title IX Changes
Many people are working to make Title IX better. These advocates want changes to Title IX to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for all students. They are fighting to clarify Title IX's purpose and consistently apply it to all schools. They also advocate for protection for students with disabilities and better enforcement of Title IX.
Title IX has been a powerful tool in the fight against sex discrimination in schools. Nevertheless, it could be better. Some say it needs to go further. Others argue that it needs to be fairer. Despite these criticisms, Title IX is vital to our nation's civil rights laws. Understanding your rights under Title IX can help ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to learn in school.
Getting Legal Help With Title IX Claims
If you think your school has violated the provisions of Title IX, getting legal help can be very important. An attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation. They can also guide you through the grievance process. When looking for a lawyer, look for one who knows about education law, especially Title IX. Your state's Office of the Attorney General may also have helpful information.
State laws also play an essential part in enforcing Title IX. While federal laws provide base-level protection against discrimination, some states offer even greater protections. They may have different laws that cover smaller employers. Alternatively, they may provide more extensive protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
If you believe you have a Title IX claim, consider speaking to an education attorney about your case.
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