Sunday will mark the 47th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the law that opened up many opportunities for women in the classroom, sports and more. The National Women’s History Projects notes “Title IX of the Education Amendments for the 1972, signed by President Richard Nixon, is one of the most important legislative initiatives passed for women and girls since women won the vote in 1920.”

Title IX, passed June 23, 1972, 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.”

While many people think of Title IX with its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the legislation covers all educational activities. However, the benefits Title IX brought to the playing fields of our schools can also be credited with increasing the numbers of women graduating from high school and college, earning graduate degrees and entering into traditionally male-dominated careers.

Title IX was written by Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink who cited the adversities she faced in obtaining her college degrees at the University of Hawaii, University of Nebraska and the University of Chicago as a driving force for her to initiate this landmark legislation.

Interestingly, Indiana Senator Birch Bayh has often been called the “Father of Title IX” as he too was instrumental in crafting the legislation and then successfully seeing it through the United States Senate. The former Senator returned to Indiana in 2002 to participate in the 30th anniversary celebration of Title IX conducted at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis and at which the LWV of Montgomery County was represented.

The League of Women Voters of the United States has been a strong supporter of Title IX for over four decades. Under the LWVUS Equality of Opportunity position, the League worked for passage of the original bill in 1972. In 1983, the LWVUS signed on to an amicus brief in the Grove City College v. Bell, a major Supreme Court case that narrowed coverage of Title IX. In September 2004, the LWVUS signed to an amicus brief when the Supreme Court rule in the case of Jackson v Birmingham Board of Education “that individuals who bring gender discriminatory practices to light are protected from retaliation and reprisal.” This ruling was important as the majority of universities and colleges were still not in compliance.

Today thousands of women participate in collegiate athletics, and millions of young girls in elementary, middle and secondary schools are actively engaged in athletics. The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, notes that “Girls and women who participate in sports have greater confidence, high levels of self-esteem and stronger self -images. They are less likely to experience depression and are more satisfied with their lives than females who do not participate. Also, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and other illnesses.”

Studies show that girls who play sports are more likely than their non-athletic peers to score well on achievement tests, do well in science, stay in school and attend college. They are also less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, use drugs, smoke tobacco or engage in other high-risk behaviors.

While we celebrate Title IX which opened these opportunities and benefits for girls and women in Montgomery County and throughout the United States, constant vigilance is required to protect Title IX from the ongoing efforts by some interest groups to weaken its implementation.

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