Some of the best days are those where I bear witness to young people who are pushing open the door to opportunity and striving to reach their potential. Yesterday was one of those days. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary Arne Duncan, and Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, also Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, stood alongside renowned women athletes and budding stars to announce the release of new Department Title IX athletics policy. (See Valerie Jarrett’s blog post.)
Before the program, young girls “hooped it up” with Secretary Duncan. Afterwards, one young girl, from the inner-city of Baltimore recalled her experience going one-on-one with the Secretary with elation—he won, she said, “but only 5-4″. (Surely, she let him win!) Following the program, many students had the opportunity to meet with the Vice President—and eagerly shared their dreams, took pictures, and joined in the celebration. One community leader described the day as a “life changing event.” That kind of excitement is infectious!
At the conclusion of the event, the department’s Office for Civil Rights held a policy briefing about our new Title IX policy. Attendees included leaders from organizations like the NCAA, the National Women’s Law Center, the AAUW, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Society of Women Engineers, Girls Inc., Harriet Miller, one of the drafters of the Title IX regulations, and Bernice Sandler– who some call the “Godmother” of Title IX. These leaders stood side-by-side to celebrate equity for women and girls with Olympians Donna de Varona, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, WNBA player Katie Smith, WNBA draftee Joy Cheek, and members of US Women’s Olympic Hockey team, including Julie Chu. I admit to being star-struck.
The new policy that these leaders and young athletes applauded withdraws a Department of Education 2005 policy that was widely criticized for being inconsistent with the letter and spirit of Title IX. The 2005 policy permitted institutions to rely solely on a survey of students to assess their interests and abilities in athletics. It also permitted institutions to count non-responses to the survey as a lack of interest or ability in athletics. Yesterday, the Department of Education returned to longstanding Title IX athletics policy, which looks at multiple indicators (such as participation in club and intramural sports or interviews with students, admitted students, coaches and administrators) to assess student interests or ability. The policy released yesterday still gives institutions an option to do a survey as one of the means to gauge student interest. Importantly, it gives schools and colleges flexibility in complying with the Title IX legal obligations to provide equal athletic opportunities and it provides technical assistance on how this can be done.
As Vice-President Biden stated when releasing the policy, “What we’re doing here today will better ensure equal opportunity in athletics and allow women to realize their potential – so this nation can realize its potential.” And as the Secretary said, this policy is a good step in the right direction to ensure that all children, regardless of sex, have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Yesterday, that opportunity–and the dream-making–was palpable.
For more information about Title IX and the new policy, please visit the Office for Civil Rights Reading Room. See also Secretary Arne Duncan’s remarks, the press release, and the fact sheet [PDF, 100K].
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights