LM in History: Title IX at 50—Legal Momentum's Role in Enforcing Title IX

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June 23, 2022

Legal Momentum's History in Enforcing Title IX:

Project on Equal Rights in Education (PEER)

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the legislation enacted on June 23, 1972, that proclaimed “[n]o 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.” Tremendous progress is owed to Title IX. Yet, the government body initially designated to enforce Title IX’s protections, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), failed to immediately do so.

Legal Momentum, then the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, recognized that HEW would need external pressure to fulfill its obligation to enforce Title IX and, in 1974, established the Project on Equal Education Rights (PEER). Under the guidance of Director Holly Knox, PEER created a three-pronged strategy to not only force HEW’s hand in taking Title IX complaints seriously, but also to create public awareness about the basic tenets of Title IX, what protections it affords, and how to advocate for change under its umbrella.

PEER’S Work Turning Title IX from an Idea, into a Reality:

  1. PEER created the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), a group of like-minded organizations that could be called upon to testify against new proposed legislation in Congress that would weaken Title IX protections.
    • NCWGE is still a strong advocacy body today, with Legal Momentum still serving on its Executive Board. NCWGE recently released the Title IX at 50 report, detailing the strides made in ending sex discrimination in schools since Title IX went into effect in 1972, while also highlighting the work that remains to be done.
  2. PEER put pressure on the government to enforce Title IX through a series of publications that publicly called out HEWs shortcomings in enforcing the law.
    • In 1978, PEER published Stalled at the Start: Government Action on Sex Bias in the Schools. This widely circulated report garnered national press, effectively shaming HEW into starting investigations of its backlog of Title IX complaints.  
  3. PEER published an assortment of educational materials about Title IX for parents, teachers, principals, and other school administration staff to enable them to advocate for Title IX improvements on their own.
    • These materials broke the legal language of Title IX down into digestible information that parents and school staff alike used to advocate for their daughters to receive the same opportunities in school as their sons.

While PEER no longer exists in the same form today, the legacy of its materials and the progress it made live on, and Legal Momentum remains at the forefront of the advocacy seeking to hold Title IX up to its full potential. Over the next few months, we will share resources from PEER’s archives, including the reports and educational materials referenced above, to show what has been accomplished in the past 50 years of Title IX and what we still stand to learn from its work.

We invite you to follow along in our efforts to see that Title IX fulfills its initial purpose of finally ending sex discrimination in schools at every level, from K-12 through college and university.