July 17, 2012

Title IX 40th anniversary

Though the law expanded opportunities for women in many arenas, it still faces challenges, experts say.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

"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."

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Janet Judge, below, a sports law attorney from North Yarmouth, is regarded by many as one of the nation’s foremost experts on Title IX. Above: Judge, at age 10 in 1972, was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball in her native Maryland. That season, she was mostly intentionally walked or hit by the pitch.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Thirty-seven words are all it took to change America.

Those words, signed into law as Title IX by President Nixon on June 23, 1972, not only opened educational doors that had previously been bolted shut to women, but also expanded opportunities for women both on the playing field and in the work force.

But as Title IX turns 40 on Saturday, the landmark legislation still faces challenges. Despite all the progress, schools, colleges and universities sometimes still need a push to ensure equality, especially when it comes to facilities and opportunities to play.

The Women's Sports Foundation reports that, at the high school level, there are 1.3 million more boys competing than girls nationally -- and that gap has widened in the past couple of years.

Janet Judge is president of Sports Law Associates in North Yarmouth and regarded by many as one of the nation's foremost Title IX experts. She co-authored the NCAA Title IX handbook with Tim O'Brien, a Title IX lawyer from Kennebunk.

She applauds Title IX's 40th anniversary, but notes more work needs to be done.

"Even 40 years later challenges remain," Judge wrote in an email. "Where schools would never dream of requiring female students as a matter of course to use poorer bathrooms, make do with inferior equipment in the classroom, double up in dorm rooms, be satisfied with inequitable access to medical treatment, agree to use facilities during non-prime times so that their male counterparts are not inconvenienced and wash their own clothes while providing free laundry services to males, they still allow these things to happen in athletics."

Yet the impact has been significant, shaping a cultural shift that tore down decades-long stereotypes of what women could and couldn't do.

"Title IX," said Bruce Pratt, an English professor at the University of Maine and the faculty liaison to the women's basketball team, "is as important as anything since the voting rights and civil rights acts of the 1960s. When I was young, girls were told to avoid sports and to be quiet about their school successes, because such things made them unattractive to men. In other words, athletic and intelligent women didn't make good marrying material.

"That was an awful message to young women," Pratt continued in an email. "Title IX allowed women to see what it was men got from sports, and they have been better ever since."

RANKS OF WOMEN ATHLETES EXPAND

Of course, Title IX isn't just about sports, although that is where its impact is most evident. The legislation, introduced 40 years ago by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and embraced by Democratic U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana, has provided many opportunities previously not available to women.

In a Sports Illustrated article celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX, it was noted that 47 percent of all law degrees are now going to women, compared with just 7 percent in 1972; and 48 percent of medical degrees now go to women, compared with just 9 percent in 1972.

The growth in athletics is even more astounding.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there were just 294,015 girls participating in high school sports in 1972. In the latest numbers, for the 2010-11 school year, there were 3,173,549 girls competing in high school sports -- a 979 percent increase.

In one measure of Title IX compliance, Maine received the third-best rank nationally. According to the National Women's Law Center, schools where the percentage of girls participating in sports is 10 or more percentage points lower than the percentage of girls in the student body as a whole are probably at risk of not complying with Title IX.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The women’s crew team at Connecticut College put tape over the school insignia on their uniforms in 2000 to protest what they considered unfair treatment. Portland employment law attorney Julia Pitney, then Julia Greenleaf, is fifth from left.

Courtesy Julia Pitney

  


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