The Dynamics Of Title IX In Modern Society

In society today, Title IX is used to enforce equality and fair treatment among all ranges of gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual assault status. The details of Title IX have been argued time and time again ranging back to a Supreme Court case from the early 1990s to recent rulings on sexual assault cases in the present. On top of these cases, there are many official documents released to the public that portray the findings of Title IX including ethics that the public and the government believe the policy should abide. The standings of Title IX have become the backbone of how America addresses sexual assault cases and discrimination based on gender or sexuality today. From the year 1990 to the present, America has developed and renewed Title IX to encourage an impeccable no-tolerance policy on discrimination of individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender, and sexual assault status. This essay will include two Supreme Court cases, four academic articles, and three government video transcripts to address the dynamics of Title IX and how it molds into the current societal conditions.

In 1990, the Supreme Court argued a case for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) regarding the company's new rule for the women who work there. The company decided that all women were to be given different assignments to barre them from working in areas with lead exposure, which can cause birth defects. If the women wanted to continue working on the tasks that involve lead exposure, they were to give the company proof that they are infertile. The women who worked for UAW cited discrimination based on their gender and that they should not be barred from such tasks if they choose to complete them. While this incident would now fall under Title IX litigations, at the time it was argued under a Title VII breech (Blackmun). In contrast to this case, Title IX gave individuals the strength to voice their stories and allowed some to feel comfortable proceeding with criminal charges for their assailants.

Ginny Lee, a veteran from the United States Army, told her story of sexual assault while she was in active duty. She spoke briefly about the actual altercation but spoke in-depth regarding the aftermath of the assault. Lee detailed speaking to her mother after the assault, quoting that her mother said if she did not talk about it, it would be as if it never happened. Her mother wanted Lee to continue as if the assault never occurred. Lee conveyed that after her initial assault, she was assaulted again by a superior officer after she had reported the prior incident. This assault left her with a shoulder injury that later caused her to be discharged from the army and left her with crippling feelings of sorrow as she was never able to receive therapy for her assaults while she was on active duty. The abuse Lee had received while in the Army was a direct violation of Title IX under the premise that all individuals are to be safe from sexual assault and harassment. After Lee was discharged from the Army, someone had forged her signature on a form stating that she could not testify to the medical board about the incident involving her shoulder injury even though she had disclosed the incident to a medical professional. As in Lee's story, it can be noticed that her assailants were not charged, but certain politicians are advocating for longer sentences of those who are guilty of sexually based crimes.

Ted Poe, a member of the House of Representatives, declared that he believes that those who commit sexually based crimes should receive longer sentences than those that have been seen in current years. He cited the Brock Turner case as an example of an incident that he believes the perpetrator was not convicted with justice. The Brock Turner case involved a former Stanford University student who was found assaulting an unconscious woman and was interrupted by two other students at the University. Turner received a mere six-month sentence for his crime along with some time on probation but was let out after three months for ‘good behavior.' Poe stated that sentences such as Turner's are disrespectful to Title IX and all victims of sexual assault and said that he believes the sentence should fit the crime. As a result of cases much like Turner's, a letter nicknamed the 'Dear Colleague' letter became a guideline to how these sexual assault cases should be handled.

The 'Dear Colleague' letter, a twenty-page letter from the Department of Education detailing how colleges need to address sexual assault on their campuses, was the start of the prevalence of Title IX in college campuses. The letter stated that all colleges and universities now need to have a Title IX coordinator on their premises to aid students who have been assaulted or feel as though they have been discriminated against. Universities and colleges are to work on disciplining assailants of sexual harassment or assault if there is a 50.1% probability of guilt or higher. Joe Biden insisted on these stipulations to keep these incidents from being swept under the rug and create a conversation of better ways to bring closure and justice to the victims. The litigations are stemmed from the Supreme Court rulings on Title IX cases in the 1980s and 1990s that termed sexual assault and harassment as discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. In contrast to how the 'Dear Colleague' letter details how colleges should discuss and react to sexual assault or harassment incidents, there are members of politics that believe differently in how sexually based crime cases should be treated.

Senator of Iowa, Chuck Grassley, spoke about his beliefs on sexual assault cases and how they should be treated in the public eye and the eyes of the law. Grassley detailed that he does not understand the sensitivity universities use while addressing sexually based crimes and that these crimes should be disciplined in a more ‘cut-throat' matter. He believes that universities should be harsher on sexual-based crime assailants to make an example of them and to convince assailants that these actions will not be tolerated. In addition to thoughts much like Grassley's where actions of justice for victims need to be much harsher and more proactive instead of defensive and sensitive towards the victim; there are beliefs that the public can be more proactive towards preventing sexual assault.

The University of Rochester, a private university in New York, demonstrated a new way to address sexual assault rates on college campuses and ways to work on preventing these incidents. The university wanted to create a discussion among students to make them more aware of sexual assault, how to be a helpful bystander in case of a threat of sexual assault, and consent culture (Miller). The Title IX office on campus encouraged professors who have canceled their classes for the day to allow the office to teach an hour workshop on consent and being aware of sexual assault. With the works of Title IX offices on college campuses, there are also violations of Title IX; such as hazing, in high school settings even within extracurriculars.

Hazing works off a person's instinct to fit in and can be popular in high school organizations. Hazing incidents can take form in a sexual nature such as a practice called ‘cornholing' in which a peer would attempt to penetrate a new member by surprise and without the peer's consent (DeMartini 53-55). While hazing has been treated by some as a joke, it can be quite hazardous to the victims and violates Title IX; protecting people, especially students, from sexual assault. A case of ‘cornholing' used as hazing was in a case against the Tennessee Board of Education after a school failed to protect two students from the hazing and harassment, failing to investigate the hazing incidents. The father of the two students who were harassed pursued legal action because under Title IX litigations it is a school's responsibility to protect students from peer-on-peer harassment. While there are intense issues within schools that are greatly helped by students coming forward, some individuals believe Title IX may not fairly protect those who are accused.

Among the opposing beliefs are stories of students such as Caleb Warner, Joshua Strange, and Zachary Hunt who were all on the receiving end of Title IX's no tolerance of sexual assault or harassment. These three male students were expelled from their respective universities after being found guilty in sexual assault or harassment cases. With stories much like these, some individuals believe that Title IX is causing rape culture to go too far and deeming student assailants as ‘sexual monsters' (Wilson “Presumed Guilty”). Along with these beliefs, some male students are speaking out that they believe Title IX gives too much freedom to female students to make accusations whether in good or bad faith and opens the door to false accusations. These assumptions create concern over whether universities are now too quick to press charges or discipline an accused suspect. While Title IX can be effective for universities, it can also apply to younger crowds and how their behavior is guided and criticized.

Title IX's effectiveness regarding younger crowds was seen in a Supreme Court case, Davis vs Monroe County Board of Education, argued in January of 1999 involving two fifth grade students (DeMitchell). Davis vs Monroe County Board of Education addressed student on student sexual harassment and that schools need to protect students from other predatory students. The premise of the case involved a fifth-grade female student being sexually harassed by one of her male peers. The details include that the female student was groped and harassed by the male student for some time and while the incidents were reported by both the student and her parents, the school was hesitant to discipline the male student. While the harassment was ongoing the female student was not even allowed to move her seat away from her harasser, eventually pushing her parents to have the case heard by the court. Title IX cases involving children can be quite controversial because many ponder whether younger individuals understand their actions and the meaning of them, let alone how their actions may seem sexually motivated.

Within various years and ages, children have been suspended or further punished at their respective schools for incidents deemed as sexual assault under the zero-tolerance policy regarding Title IX. One of these cases was Levina Subrata's six-year-old boy, who had accidentally rubbed against the groin area of another boy while playing at recess and was suspended as a result (Cyphert 325-350). A four-year-old child in Waco, Texas received a suspension because he had hugged a teacher's aide and was said to have ‘placed his face in her chest' resulting in a sexual referenced charge on his school record, which was later expunged, and an inappropriate touching charge that will remain until middle school. A seven-year-old boy in Boston was marked with sexual harassment charges for kicking a schoolmate in the groin during a disagreement. A nine-year-old in South Carolina was suspended for calling a teacher cute, marking his record with charges of inappropriate behavior and statements . These punishments are a result of behavior that can be completely normal in young children who are still learning what is socially acceptable but can be deemed perverted behavior when seen by adults. Young children are proved to still be learning how to behave around others as they grow, and it is seen as ridiculous by some for these children to be punished so harshly when they still are socially unaware. Although, it brings the question of if young students can commit sexually charged acts or be capable of sexual harassment. This was further questioned in Gabrielle M vs Park Forest-Chicago Heights, Illinois School District 163 because a five-year-old child had been seen showing other students his underwear, kissing other students, and grabbing his groin area in the classroom. All these different situations and punishments pose the question, can young children truly be capable of sexually based acts?

As society continues to grow the litigations and standards of Title IX grow with it, creating a safer place for individuals of all sexual orientations, genders, and sexual assault backgrounds. Title IX has continued to play a role in advocating for sexual assault survivors or victims of discrimination, making them feel safe to state their story or pursue legal action, much like Ginny Lee and the female workers of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America. The ever-growing standards of Title IX have sculpted the 'Dear Colleague' letter which greatly changed the way sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination cases are handled by the public and universities today. This policy has inspired some individuals to work on preventing sexual assault much like the University of Rochester and to protect students such as the students spoken of in the case against the Tennessee Board of Education. While Title IX can be controversial by those who believe the policy creates more leeway for false accusations or is too strict on younger students, it is highly effective to protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual assault status, gender, or sexual orientation. As Title IX changes to adapt to the ever-changing society, it continues to bring new subsets to further protect individuals' rights and to keep them free from discrimination, breaking way to what can only grow to be much more effective and extraordinary as the society changes. 

16 August 2021
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