The federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions is Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 (amending the Higher Education Act of 1965). This act is codified as Title 20, United States Code, Chapter 38, Sections 1681-1686. The act was also amended by the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 ("Title IX").
The law 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. The amendment in 1987 expanded the definition of program or activity to include all the operations of an educational institution, governmental entity or private employer that receives federal funds.
Title IX forbids sex discrimination in all university student services and academic programs including, but not limited to, admissions, financial aid, academic advising, housing, athletics, recreational services, college residential life programs, health services, counseling and psychological services, Registrar's office, classroom assignments, grading and discipline. Title IX also forbids discrimination because of sex in employment and recruitment consideration or selection, whether full time or part time, under any education program or activity operated by an institution receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance ("recipient").
Following the passage of Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education (the "Department") issued its regulations for compliance with Title IX. The Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") in the Department is responsible for enforcing Title IX. OCR's responsibility to ensure that institutions that receive federal funds comply with Title IX is carried out through compliance enforcement. The principle enforcement activity is the investigation and resolution of complaints filed by those alleging sex discrimination. In addition, through a compliance review program of selected recipients, OCR is able to identify and remedy sex discrimination which may not be addressed through complaint investigation. The OCR has discretion to select an institution for review in order to assess its compliance with Title IX even absent the filing of a complaint if the investigation indicates there has been a violation of Title IX, OCR will attempt to obtain voluntary compliance and negotiate appropriate remedies. Title IX also protects people from discrimination on the basis of sex in employment and employment practices in educational programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The prohibition encompasses, but is not limited to, recruitment, advertising, hiring, upgrading, tenure, firing, rates of pay, fringe benefits, leave for pregnancy and childbirth, and participation in employer sponsored activities. Because employment discrimination is not a part of the Title IX Coordinator/Equal Employment Officer ("Title IX Officer") duties, I will focus on its application to the JMU student population.
OCR requires each recipient to issue notices of nondiscrimination. It recommends using one statement to comply with the requirements of Title VI, Title IX and Section 504 regulations. This combined notice must contain two elements: a statement of nondiscrimination on the basis of which OCR enforces civil rights statutes; and the identity by name or title, address and telephone number of the employee(s) responsible for coordinating the agency's compliance efforts.
Following its passage, Title IX has been interpreted by the federal government to cover all activities and programs of educational institutions receiving federal funds and all education programs of institutions whose primary mission is not education. In 1984 however, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Grove City College v. Bell ruled that Title IX was restricted to only those specific programs or activities funded with federal money. As a result, discrimination in many programs or activities was no longer prohibited. On March 22, 1988, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 over President Reagan's veto. This act overturned the Supreme Court's earlier decision and restored Title IX coverage so that once again it applies to the entire institution regardless of where federal funds are utilized.
Although some schools are exempt from coverage with regard to admissions, all schools must treat their students without discrimination on the basis of sex. Courts have interpreted Title IX to prohibit institutions from, on the basis of sex: (1) denying any person aid, benefits or services in all areas, including course offerings, extracurricular activities such as student organizations and competitive athletics, financial aid, facilities and housing; (2) providing different aid, benefits, or services or provide them in a different manner; (3) subjecting any person to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or treatment, including rules pertaining to appearance; (4) providing significant assistance such as facilities or act as a sponsor to any organization or person which discriminates on the basis of sex in providing any aid or benefits to students or employees; and (5) limiting any person in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage or opportunity. In sum, schools cannot use sex as a category to classify students.
To see some precedent setting cases and their holdings regarding student rights under Title IX, click Here.