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The 14th Amendment and the Evolution of Title IX

The 14th Amendment provides, in part, that no state can "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Title IX specifically prohibits sex discrimination.

Ratified in 1868, Congress and the courts have applied the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to many aspects of public life over the past 150 years. Title IX is an example of how the 14th Amendment has been interpreted over time. Title IX, which is of particular interest to young people, prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from excluding students from participating in educational and athletic programs on the basis of sex.

Specifically, Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act was signed into law on June 23, 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon. However, Title IX began its journey through all three branches of government when Representative Patsy T. Mink, of Hawaii, who is recognized as the major author and sponsor of the legislation, introduced it in Congress. When she died in 2002, Title IX was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. She was given the Medal of Freedom after her death.

One way to track the evolution of Title IX is to examine the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Grove City College v. Bell. As the high court’s first Title IX case, the issues that arose from the Act, demonstrate how each of the three branches exercises its authority. The case makes Title IX a study not only of the 14th Amendment but also of the impact of the push and pull of the separation of powers on law-abiding citizens.

In a Nutshell

The Legislative Branch. Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires that no person be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex under “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It authorizes any federal agency that provides such assistance to issue regulations to enforce the prohibition of sex discrimination. It also allows termination of financial assistance when an institution does not voluntarily comply.

The Executive Branch. In 1975, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (which became the Department of Education and is referred to here as the Department) issued implementing regulations requiring every educational institution that receives federal financial assistance to file a document assuring its compliance with Title IX.

The Judicial Branch. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1984 that Title IX’s non-discrimination and compliance requirements apply to any educational institution that receives federal financial assistance through grants provided directly to its students. At that time, the requirement applied only to the specific program or activity receiving federal assistance.  In this instance the program was student financial aid.

The Legislative Branch. In early 1988, the Senate and House of Representatives each responded to the Supreme Court decision by passing legislation (Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987) which clarifies that a “program or activity,” for purposes of Title IX and other civil rights laws, refers to “all operations” of an institution whenever federal financial assistance is extended to “any part” of the institution.

The Executive Branch. On March 16, 1988, President Reagan vetoed the legislation on grounds that it “vastly and unjustifiably expand[s] the power of the [f]ederal government over the decisions and affairs of private organizations.”

The Legislative Branch. On March 22, 1988, Congress overrode the President’s veto by passing again the legislation with the support of a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate. As a result, the Civil Rights Restoration Act became law.

How to Use These Resources

  1. To get started, review the glossary and prepare students to use it with the case materials to underline terms and concept they find in the readings.
  2. Have students read the Grove City College v. Bell facts and case summary and make a list of their questions and arguments.
  3. Use the Title IX discussion questions to dive more deeply into the issues raised in Grove City College v. Bell.
  4. Have students use the Title IX timeline as a reference for drawing a Venn Diagram or double bubble map to list the impacts of each branch of government on the evolution of Title IX.
  5. Use the separation of powers discussion questions to illuminate how the push and pull of the three branches of government shaped Title IX. Guide students’ understanding of how the separation of powers has an impact on the their daily life and the issues that matter to them.
  6. Have students view the Ahead of the Majority video on Representative Patsy Mink, often called the Mother of Title IX. Next, have students select a Pathways to the Bench video profile of a federal judge whose story also deals with personal adversities that motivated them to be of service.