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Title IX Turns 38

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Dept. of Education Russlynn Ali marks the 38th anniversary of Title IX and describes current work to strengthen Title IX enforcement.

Every day in the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, my colleagues and I work hard to help ensure America's young people are free from discrimination in our nation's schools and colleges. Today is an important milestone in our work to protect students: the 38th anniversary of Title IX, the law prohibiting institutions that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of sex. Thirty-eight years ago, courageous leaders came together to help pass this landmark legislation that has helped to end sex discrimination in our country. 

Today, Secretary Duncan talked about some of the important accomplishments of Title IX since its passage 38 years ago:

“In 1972, less than 30,000 female students participated in sports and recreational programs at NCAA member institutions. Thanks largely to Title IX that number has increased six-fold since then -- and at the high school level, the number of girls participating in athletics has increased ten-fold since 1972.”

Indeed, the research is clear -- Title IX's impact has not only been felt on the playing fields, but also in the classrooms of colleges and offices of our nation's workplaces. While we've made some incredible progress providing equal athletic opportunities, we must continue to ensure that students in schools and colleges are protected from discrimination on the basis of their sex on the wide array of issues covered by Title IX. Our collective sense of urgency is great. 

Here at the Department of Education, equity is woven through all of our work, and our reinvigorated Office for Civil Rights will continue to strengthen Title IX and enforce its protections.  In the months ahead, among other issues, we will work to combat sexual violence and assault, ensure students learn in an environment free from harassment and bullying, provide greater access to courses that will prepare under-represented students for success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities to participate in sports. 

Today, as we reflect on the success of Title IX in safeguarding equality, we are reminded that there is more to do.  Let us redouble our efforts, and continue to work tirelessly to help fulfill our nation's great promise of equality for all.

Russlynn Ali is Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and represents the Department of Education on the White House Council on Women and Girls