40 years of Title IX brings progress

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of a piece of legislation that changed education in America forever.

On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act. It included the now celebrated Title IX, which reads in part:

“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.”

The significance of Title IX really can’t be overemphasized: It changed just about everything, opening opportunities for all students — girls and boys — that previously hadn’t existed.

“Programs or activities” that fall under the Title IX umbrella include state and local government departments and agencies, colleges, universities, vocational schools and all school systems that receive federal assistance. Even corporations and private businesses must comply with Title IX if they receive any federal funding or if they are “principally engaged in the business of providing education, health care, housing, social services, or parks and recreation.”

Title IX is probably most known for its impact on athletics and sports, but it has also affected career education, sexual harassment, the overall learning environment, standardized testing, scholarship opportunities, and employment.

Students in school today have never known education, and in particular, sports education and participation, without Title IX protections. Girls on the soccer or lacrosse field, or those working towards a swimming or basketball scholarship don’t find those things remarkable.

But it wasn’t always that way.

According to the group TitleIX.Info, before 1972, only about 4% of girls played high school sports — the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) puts it another way: Just 7% of all high school athletes were girls.

The number of high school girls participating in sports has risen to nearly 50%, with girls making up about 41% of high school athletes and 42% of college athletes.

This month, the NCWGE released a report, “Title IX at 40.” The report notes:

“Title IX has increased female participation in sports exponentially. In response to greater opportunities to play, the number of high school girls participating in sports has risen tenfold in the past 40 years. These gains demonstrate the key principle underlying the legislation: Women and girls have an equal interest in sports and deserve equal opportunities to participate.”

In addition to the education, scholarship and employment benefits of Title IX, the positive impact of the legislation on women’s health is worthy of note.

Studies have shown high school athletes are significantly less likely to smoke or use drugs than non-athletes. And, adolescent female athletes have much lower rates of sexual activity and pregnancy.

The health benefits extend well into adulthood. The NCWGE report says research has shown girls who play sports when they are young are less likely to be obese, and have a decreased risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer.

Whether it was the intended by legislators or not, the results are in. Title IX has been a boon for women across the country and here in MIlford as well. And that’s a good thing.

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