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Education Dept. Strengthens Title IX Enforcement

I was unavailable for the big Title IX announcement by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on April 20, so I thought I would catch up with it today.

The U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights is withdrawing guidance issued under the Bush administration that permitted schools and colleges to use surveys of potential student-athletes to determine interests in a particular sport.

Under the Bush administration's interpretation, the survey results alone could be used to demonstrate insufficient interest or ability in a sport, which the college could then rely on to demonstrate compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs.

The Obama administration policy, which is a reiteration of Title IX guidance issued during President Bill Clinton's administration, stresses there are multiple factors to be evaluated to determine whether a college is providing nondiscriminatory athletic opportunities under the federal law.

This is largely an issue for college athletic programs, since the surveys and the compliance tests relate to athletic scholarships, but Title IX equity and enforcement affects K-12 schools as well.

The Education Department issued a "Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali, a question-and-answer document, a fact sheet, and a press release about the change.

At least two groups had embraced the Bush administration policy. One was the National Wrestling Coaches Association, which has clashed with the Education Department in court over the association's view that Title IX enforcement has prompted many colleges to drop men's sports (such as wrestling). The other is the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, which issued a report on Title IX earlier this month that backed the reliance on the surveys.

The New York Times reports on the change here and the Associated Press here.

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