Speak up to keep Title IX strong

As the public policy chairwoman of the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Branch of the American Association of University Women, a leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls, I have been acutely aware of the current attacks on Title IX. It is that awareness that inspires me to share these thoughts with our local community.

Students should be able to go to school without experiencing sexual harassment or violence. That’s the promise made over 45 years ago by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in any educational institution or program that receives federal funding. But Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed a new set of regulations that would fundamentally weaken Title IX and, in turn, put at risk the promise of equity.

Let’s be clear: Title IX is about more than girls playing sports. It protects all students from sex discrimination–both boys and girls, kindergartners and undergrads alike. That includes instances of sexual harassment and sexual violence that can occur during a student’s education, impeding their safety, comfort, access to education and ability to participate in school life.

Under the guise of “fairness,” Secretary DeVos is seeking to undermine the progress we’ve made toward preventing and ending discrimination in our schools. By changing the definition of sexual harassment to exclude many students’ experiences, limiting what behavior counts and putting in place processes that make it harder for students to come forward, these proposed changes will make schools fundamentally less safe. And when students cannot stay in school because they experience sexual harassment and violence, their access to education is fundamentally unequal.

If schools are failing to adequately protect students, it is not reason to weaken Title IX protections–it’s evidence that we need to better enforce those protections and equip schools with the resources to do better.

The Department of Education is now accepting public comments on its proposed changes through January 28. We must all stand up for equity in education by voicing our opposition to this attack on Title IX. You are encouraged to raise your voice by submitting your comments at www.regulations.gov.