Title IX: Changing Education

By Lauren Leffelman

*At the time of this post, Lauren is a senior in high school. She participates in volleyball, soccer, cheerleading, dance, and National Honor Society  In the fall, she plans to attend Aurora University. This is her research paper which won a superior ribbon at the Illinois History Expo. Lauren is the only student I have ever known to openly cheer when told that an essay was going to be written in class.

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Equality is defined as the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability.  In the early 1970s, women were being excluded from the benefits of equality in education. Women were not allowed equal access to athletics, financial aid, and admissions. However, a major turning point came not only the education system, but America as a whole in 1972: the establishment of Title IX. Title IX was an educational amendment act of 1972 that put an end to discrimination among females in higher education systems.  The educational amendment stated 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.” [1] Women were now allowed to take full advantage of all that college had to offer and/or to fully participate in the college experience. Higher education had become something for not only men, but women as well. Title IX was a symbol for expanded opportunities for females. The amendment has been a driving force and an inspiration to women throughout the generations. Title IX helped to establish a place for women in the higher education systems of today.

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Before the establishment of Title IX women were not allowed to play sports or if they were the sports were extremely limited. Moreover, they didn’t receive the same treatment that boys received. They had fewer coaches and their equipment wasn’t very good either.

To begin with, the Education Amendment of 1972, most commonly referred to as Title IX, originated from the 1965 presidential executive order which did not allow for federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or origin. Furthermore, in 1968 President Johnson extended by adding that employment could not be dependent on gender. Even further, a senior scholar for the National Association of Women in Education, Bernice R. Sandler made a connection with women in the workforce and women in college. She concluded that since colleges were considered federal contractors, they could not discriminate against the admission of women. [2] In 1970, the fight for women’s equality began. Legislations were being drafted banning the discrimination on the basis of gender in education. The original plan was to extend the Title VII, which was the Civil Rights Act. With much effort, Title IX was born and with that it took on its own entity. In the beginning stages of the legislation of Title IX, the wording was difficult to understand, and it was not known whether the bill would cover almost every aspect of college life including sports, housing, counseling, and health services. It took nearly three years for the government to get into specific regulations. Overall, the board decided that the entire school must be in compliance with Title IX. To make sure that all facets of the schooling systems were in compliance, the Office of Civil Rights was in charge of enforcing the amendment wholly and equally. Another piece to the foundation of this amendment was the Vocational Equity Act of 1963, which proclaimed that those with federal funding must eliminate sex bias, stereotyping, and discrimination in school systems. Title IX was subject to over 20 proposed amendments. Signed by Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, Title IX became an amendment that would continue to evolve and benefit the lives of many.

Primarily, education is one of the most important aspects of one’s life. With Title IX now an effective law, the overall education system took on a new persona. Females were now capable of taking any course they pleased, such as criminal justice and auto mechanics, which were originally seen as “men’s work.” As a result, women were beginning to make a bigger percentage of the enrollment. For instance, before the passing of the new law, medical schools and law schools would often times take fewer than 15 women into their programs. With the development of the amendment, women were being rewarded academically much more equally. Men and women were learning by the same rules. Women could receive scholarships, and their admittance no longer was dependent on their test scores being higher than that of the men applying for enrollment. With education comes success, and with success power is sure to follow; women were becoming more and more successful with the implementation of Title IX.

Most commonly, Title IX is known for its reforms in college level athletics. In the beginning, college athletics were for men only. Women were becoming increasingly more interested in athletics. With that interest, colleges were forced to comply by making athletics an equal opportunity. Before Title IX, only one in 27 girls participated in high school sports. [3] With that said only 32,000 played intercollegiate sports. The reason for this was that athletic scholarships for women were virtually non-existent. Equality had to be met in all aspects of government funded schools. Therefore, women were allowed the equal opportunity to play sports while in school. However, with men’s equipment being increasingly more expensive than that of women’s equipment, it was hard to find harmony amongst the sexes.  Although the sports would never be identical, they were still applied and carried out equally. Boys and girls were treated the same by their coaches, and they all reaped the same benefits. The allowance of women in college athletics proved that if you build something up, people are sure to gather.  Women’s participation in sports sky rocketed. Title IX is a true example of The Field of Dreams. It gave way to a new passion that women did not even know they had. Some would argue that men’s sports were because women’s sports were on the rise. In reality, both sexes had sports revoked to avoid having to lower the budget on bigger programs such as football. [4]However, the implementation of female athletics was dependent on interest, budget, and gender ratio. Athletics was one of the biggest addressed issues in Title IX.

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Overall, Title IX had a huge impact in many areas. Generally, it worked to gain access to higher education for women. With women able to get a college education, they were able to work and be more independent. The opportunities were becoming seemingly endless.  If one were to take a glance at our history, women have been making leaps and bounds into the career world and now occupy high paying jobs. The learning environment was also impacted. The government was making it so that even high schools had to correspond to the new rules. Often times girls were separated from boys. Though all girl and all boy schools still exist, facilities were more often than not unisex learning environments. With the equality of the environment, came the equal learning opportunities. Women were now majoring in science and math related careers whereas before it was a predominantly male field. When looking at the bigger picture, Title IX allowed for the evolution of the school system we know today.

Consequently, Title IX was not always well received. People were always trying to battle back against a law that was looking to cause more good rather than harm. Many of the most well-known court cases have to do with females and sexual harassment. Alexander v. Yale was the first case concerning sexual harassment that gave reference to Title IX. With this case, sexual harassment was granted an act of sexual discrimination, thus making it illegal. This case involved five female students who were pushed into silence because Yale University provided no procedure to make sexual harassment illegal. Two of the girls were harassed by a flute teacher and a hockey coach. One of the other females involved was offered an “A” by a teacher in return for sexual acts. When she told the professor no, he responded by giving her a failing grade. Although the women did not win the case, the college implemented a Grievance Procedure and established that sexual harassment was an entailment to Title IX. [5] One would also find that the Land of Lincoln has many well known stories that were in refusal with the new law. In the Cannon v. University of Chicago Case of 1979, when 39-year old Geraldine Cannon applied to two medical schools she was denied. She later realized that both schools would not accept candidates over the ages of 30 and 35. After more thought, she realized that her gender also made the admissions board more partial to her application. As one would guess, Cannon filed for a law suit. Her argument was that women often times could not attend college because it was interrupted by having to raise families, which is primarily seen as a woman’s task, whereas men can attend college whenever they feel like it. Once the case made it to court, all they did was pay for her attorney fees.  However, her long traveled endeavor of gaining equal access to college did not go unseen. In the years to come, changes were made in college systems. [6] Another court case that came from the great state of Illinois was Kelley v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. In 1993, the University of Illinois announced that they would be getting rid of four varsity sports, one of which being the men’s swim team. The boy’s that were on the team brought a lawsuit up against the Board of Trustees.  The school came back by saying that it was part of a budget cut and that it was in an effort to comply with Title IX. Swimming was chosen to be terminated because it was historically weak and it did not bring in many people because it wasn’t popular in high school.[7]This case along with many of Illinois’ other famous court cases helped to shape Title IX.

Going back in time, Hiawatha High School of Kirkland, Illinois was subject to many issues that came with women’s equal opportunities. Imagine this: you are a female high school teacher. You yourself never had many opportunities as a woman. Though you were able to attend college, high school was not exactly a breeze. In high school, women had hardly any opportunity to play varsity sports. In turn, not having girl’s athletics was an enormous disadvantage when trying to receive a sports scholarship. It was even more difficult then to make the college team.  Now in the year 2012 when asking Connie Worden, retired teacher from Hiawatha High School, what her experience was like this was her response: Her high school athletic opportunities were limited. However, when she came back to Hiawatha to teach, she decided to make a change. When she first started teaching in the 70s the only sports were for boys, which were basketball, football, and baseball. When looking through the 1976 yearbook, one would find that there were now a girls’ bowling and volleyball team that were coached by Deb Holze. In 1977, Holze coached Junior-Varsity volleyball. Seeing as Holze coached two separate teams, there was still no equity in coaching. Boys’ sports had two coaches just as they had from the beginning. In 1979 Deb Holze was still coach of the volleyball team while Sis Reichart was the bowling coach. In 1980 a new sport was added: basketball. The girl’s Junior-Varsity team was coached by Loarraine Dreska and the varsity coach was Coach O’Black. Connie Worden took on the role of being in charge of the Girls’ Athletic Association, otherwise known as the GAA.[8] Worden lived through a very slow climb to equality at Hiawatha, a school certainly not atypical. Although it was never considered a sport, Worden would take a group of girls for an hour a week after school to do things such as camping and bike riding. Even though it was not a sport, the GAA helped to give young women the opportunity to participate in something that was never allowed in the years before.

The Girls Athletic Association, otherwise known as the GAA, was a club for girls ran by staff at Hiawatha High School and it was led by Connie Worden, a retired English teacher who has been a part of the school for 33 years. The club gave young female students the chance to participate in physical activity, which was otherwise not a feasible task before the assembly of the GAA. The girls would play sports, go on bike rides, or go on camping trips. Activities were planned to happen at least once a week. Groups such as the GAA allowed for women to do things they would otherwise not get the chance to do.

The Girls Athletic Association, otherwise known as the GAA, was a club for girls ran by staff at Hiawatha High School and it was led by Connie Worden, a retired English teacher who has been a part of the school for 33 years. The club gave young female students the chance to participate in physical activity, which was otherwise not a feasible task before the assembly of the GAA. The girls would play sports, go on bike rides, or go on camping trips. Activities were planned to happen at least once a week. Groups such as the GAA allowed for women to do things they would otherwise not get the chance to do.

Today, even though the playing field between men and women isn’t entirely even, women have come a long way in establishing a place in society. Through the years, the numbers have proven to show that women are making their way to the top. Today, women earn between 60-62% of Associate degrees and 58% of Bachelor degrees. Before Title IX, only 7% of women participated in high school sports compared to the 41.5% of today. [9] In other words, today one in 2.5 girls in America participates in sports. In 1970 only 8% of women had a college degree where as it made a huge leap to 28% in 2009. [10] In 1972 women received only 9% of medical degrees; today they make up 38%. In 1944 the percentage of law degrees quadrupled to 43%.[11] The proof is in the numbers, women make up a large percentage of not only our college enrollment, but also athletics and job employment rates.title 9.3.jpg

As a parting thought, Title IX was one of the greatest turning points in America in numerous ways. Title IX gave women equal access to sports, government funding, and college opportunities. Title IX has been around for more than 35 years and it is evident that the law is here to stay and continue to evolve. It has taken 35 years to get women to the place they are today, where there are no boundaries to their dreams.  It is certainly true; a woman can do anything a man can do. Title IX was able to demolish the barriers and stereotypes that were placed before women and give way to a world with endless opportunities. People will continue to challenge it, but Title IX has stood strong. Being one of the biggest turning points in our history to date, Title IX deserves much more credit. With Title IX, we have reached a state where we can all be equal, whether you are a male or female, black or white, athletic or not athletic, rich or poor. Title IX has allowed for women to work in correspondence with men, be CEO’s of big companies, be part of a presidential cabinet, and be gold medalist winners of the Olympics. The playing fields are open to everyone, it is just up to the generation of today to keep it that way and work past the boundaries that society sets before us. It took only 37 words for America to reach the success it has today, “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.” However, it takes America as a whole to keep it alive and to keep making history. Success has been achieved, but it is a never ending effort to keep pushing forth and create total equality. On a positive note, Title IX has altered the mindset of America and has enforced a strong belief that all men and women are created equal.  Title IX had the power to change a nation and it continues to do so.


[1] “Title IX and Sex Discrimination.” U.S. Department of Education. Last modified 1998.   http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html.

[2] “Women’s Equity Resource Center.” Education Development Center | Learning transforms lives. http://www2.edc.org/womensequity/resource/title9/before.htm.

[3] “Women’s Equity Resource Center.” Education Development Center | Learning transforms lives. http://www2.edc.org/womensequity/resource/title9/before.htm.

[4] “Debunking the Myths About Title IX and Athletics | National Women’s Law Center.” National Women’s Law Center. http://www.nwlc.org/resource/debunking-myths-about-title-ix-and-athletics.

[5] “Title IX: Taking Yale to Court | The New Journal.” The New Journal. http://www.thenewjournalatyale.com/2011/04/title-ix-taking-yale-to-court/.

[6] Bruner, Darlene Y. “Cannon v. University of Chicago – Law and Higher Education.” Higher education law. Last modified November 12, 2010. http://lawhighereducation.com/24-cannon-v-university-of-chicago.html.

[7] National Association of College and University Attorneys. http://www.nacua.org/documents/Kelley_v_U_of_I.pdf.

[8] Interview: Connie Worden

[9] Feminist Majority Foundation. “Gender Equality in Athletics and Sports.” Last modified 2012. http://www.feminist.org/sports/titleIXfactsheet.asp.

[10] United States Department of Justice. “Equal Access to Education: Forty Years of Title IX.” Last modified June 23, 2012. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/edu/documents/titleixreport.pdf.

[11] Curtis, Mary, and Christine Grant. “About Title IX.” Bailiwick – The University of Iowa Libraries. Last modified February 23, 2006. http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/ge/aboutRE.html.