Title IX Protest

Realizing the Promise of Title IX



Yesterday, we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of Title IX, a section of the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. Widely known as the statute that governs varsity athletics, Title IX has helped advance women’s rights in collegiate sports, yes—but it has also laid the foundation to protect broader women’s rights to educational equality. The statue provides legal protections for student survivors of rape and sexual assault, a critical step in ensuring a safe and productive educational environment where students can learn and thrive.

Although Title IX has been in place since 1972, widespread attention to its protections against sexual assault is somewhat new. In 2011, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights published a “Dear Colleague” letter aimed at university administrators stating that “sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination” and, as such, requires university attention to these issues under Title IX. Following the letter, students across the country began to file Title IX claims against their schools for failing to respond adequately to reports of assault. These students have banded together nationally, forming networks and initiatives such as Know Your IX, a resource and advocacy center for those seeking to right their university’s inadequate sexual assault response policies.

Rape and sexual assault on college campuses are rampant. One in five women and one in eight men are raped or sexually assaulted during their time at school. Despite these alarming numbers, university administrations are largely failing to respond to students’ reports. A survey of more than 300 colleges and universities commissioned earlier this year by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) found that “many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students.” More than 40 percent of schools have not pursued investigations of a single rape or sexual assault in more than five years, but that in no way means these assaults are not happening. As the survey highlights, students face barriers to reporting their assault, meaning that data does not accurately reflect the severity of the problem.

The confined setting of a campus community poses unique challenges for those students—for women and for students of all genders. It is far too common for survivors to be subject to daily, traumatic reminders of a past assault upon seeing their assailant in the dining hall, in the dorm, or in class. Survivors and activists assert that by mishandling reports and failing to seriously condemn acts of violence, university administrations are failing students who have a moral and legal right—under Title IX—to a safe learning and living environment.

Our Jewish tradition teaches us that mental distress and moral humiliation are equated with physical harm. Our faith also commands us not to stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds (Leviticus 19:16). The physical and emotional abuse inherent in sexual violence is a direct violation of the Jewish tradition and of a broader morality that implicates us to protect ourselves and our peers. As we continue to celebrate Title IX, we must also strive to expand its legal protections by fostering an environment that does not tolerate rape or sexual assault, and to drive a shift toward cultural norms that prevent those assaults in the first place.

 

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Rachel Chung

About Rachel Chung

Rachel Chung is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. A 2014 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Rachel is originally from Wyckoff, NJ and is a member of Barnert Temple.

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