Examining the successes and remaining challenges 50 years after Title IX

It was 50 years ago on Thursday that Title IX became law and forever changed the landscape of education and athletics. Its impact has been enormous but parts of it are subjects of debate, including sexual assault claims on campus and the rights of transgender students. Amna Nawaz reports on the legacy of the landmark legislation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fifty years ago today, Title IX became law and forever changed the landscape of education and athletics in this country.

    Its impact on improving gender equity has been enormous, but parts of it are also the subject of debate. We're going to look at this in two parts.

    Geoff Bennett will look at new rules proposed by the Biden administration today.

    But, first, Amna Nawaz starts us off with a look at the legacy of the landmark legislation and ongoing efforts to level the playing field.

  • Person:

    First lady of the United States, Jill Biden.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In Washington on Wednesday, a celebration to mark half-a-century of progress, featuring first lady Jill Biden and tennis icon Billie Jean King.

  • Billie Jean King, Former U.S. Tennis Champion:

    Title IX is one of the most important pieces of legislation of the 20th century. It does a lot. It speaks to the importance of gender equity in this country and stands as a benchmark of global significance.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law in 1972, banning sex-based discrimination in schools.

    Two years later, Democratic Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii, an author and leading advocate of the bill, reflected on the deep-rooted challenges it addressed.

  • Fmr. Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI):

    So long as any part of our society adheres to a sexist notion that men should do certain things and women should do certain things, and then begin to inculcate our babies with these notions through curriculum development and so forth, then we will never be rid of the basic causes of sex discrimination.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, the late congresswoman was honored with a new portrait unveiled in the U.S. Capitol.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The law that Mink helped create was intended to achieve gender equity in the classroom. And it has had a major impact in education overall.

    It's been especially revolutionary in sports and athletics from elementary schools to colleges. Today, girls participate in high school sports at 10 times the rate they did 50 years ago. In 2020, some 220,000 women competed in college athletics, up from about 32,000 in 1972.

    One sport that saw an impact quickly, soccer. Title IX paved the way for the NCAA's first women's national championship in 1982. From that came the 1985 formation of the U.S. women's national team, which now has won four world championships in the last quarter-century.

    Yet, for all its success, Title IX is far from perfectly implemented. That's according to a new USA Today investigation called "Falling Short at 50."

    Rachel Axon is part of that reporting team.

  • Rachel Axon, USA Today:

    Our reporting showed schools could improve across basically all areas where they can be measured for Title IX compliance. Just getting on the field is hard enough.

    When we talk about proportionality, 87 percent of schools not providing enough opportunities to women. Without meaningful enforcement, or people being aware of the ways these schools are falling short, they're able to still have these problems and, in many cases, not be compliant with the law.

  • Sue Bird, Former WNBA Player:

    It was the right time for me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Last week, at her retirement press conference, WNBA legend Sue Bird looked to the future of Title IX in America.

  • Sue Bird:

    I would love for there to be a day where we'd, of course, celebrate it as part of our history, but we don't have to talk about it in a way where we're talking about schools getting sued because they're not giving women opportunity.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, today, the Biden administration proposed new rules for how schools must treat sex discrimination under Title IX. If approved, the regulations would reverse Trump era rules that limited the scope of sexual assault investigations on campuses.

    The proposal would also codify protections for transgender students.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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