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Title IX, 50 Years Later 

The landmark civil rights bill barring discrimination based on sex in public schools keeps finding new avenues to build equity

In the early 1970s Hawaii Rep. Patsy Mink, with the help of Oregon Rep. Edith Green, drafted a version of what would later become Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The whole bill modified financial aid, expanded the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to cover executives, administrators and outside salespeople, and most notably prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions. Before then, schools limited educational opportunities for women.

"If you were in math and science, you did not have access to the universities," said Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, co-founder and executive director of the University of Oregon's Sports Product Management Program.

The Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals were trailblazers for pre-Title IX women’s athletics, offering scholarships 40 years before the legislation passed. Without competition, they mostly played against semi-professional women’s teams. - COURTESY OF TRUBY STUDIO, DURANT, OKLAHOMA
  • Courtesy of Truby Studio, Durant, Oklahoma
  • The Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals were trailblazers for pre-Title IX women’s athletics, offering scholarships 40 years before the legislation passed. Without competition, they mostly played against semi-professional women’s teams.

Schmidt-Devlin has personal experience of schools' practices of diverting women from math and science. She was in high school when Title IX passed, but her sister attended Oregon State University before it was enacted.

Alex Johnston. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It’s been a really big stress outlet for me, especially during COVID. It’s something that I easily find joy in doing and I make connections with people more easily because of it.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Alex Johnston. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It’s been a really big stress outlet for me, especially during COVID. It’s something that I easily find joy in doing and I make connections with people more easily because of it.”

"Without a doubt she would have been a computer scientist. She went to Oregon State, and they quickly showed her the Home Ec. college," Schmidt-Devlin said. "She kept on going over saying, 'I think I want to go to this college, and I think I might be good at this.' And they kept saying, 'Well, no, no, no, you're a woman, you'll be over here.'"


Dagne Harris. Senior, Redmond High School; “Sports have taught me countless life lessons. I honestly don’t think I would be who I am today at all if I didn’t learn how to compete, be fair, work hard, push past boundaries, and exceed limits. Sports have taught me to work hard at everything I do and be a leader. I am a leader, I’m competitive and I work really hard because of sports.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Dagne Harris. Senior, Redmond High School; “Sports have taught me countless life lessons. I honestly don’t think I would be who I am today at all if I didn’t learn how to compete, be fair, work hard, push past boundaries, and exceed limits. Sports have taught me to work hard at everything I do and be a leader. I am a leader, I’m competitive and I work really hard because of sports.”

Women in sports

There was a similar chilling effect in sports, which is among the most visible ways Title IX changed the landscape of public education. Few sports were available to women prior to that.

Gracie Piper. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It has given me a community outside of school and work. Just somewhere to go and have fun with my friends but still be in that competitive atmosphere. It has also given me better options for colleges and more opportunities.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Gracie Piper. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It has given me a community outside of school and work. Just somewhere to go and have fun with my friends but still be in that competitive atmosphere. It has also given me better options for colleges and more opportunities.”

"There were some girls sports—you could do cheerleading, you could maybe play tennis, there was maybe one or two things you could do as a girl in high school, but there wasn't very much opportunity," Schmidt-Devlin said. "In 1972, Title IX was passed, and the high schools started adding sports for the girls. I was right there and I was in heaven. I could play basketball or play volleyball and I had already started to run."

Jillian Bremont. Sophomore, Redmond High School: “I’ve played sports my entire life and I don’t even know what I would do if I didn’t have them. I am so glad that they [Title IX] are celebrating their 50th anniversary. That is so awesome! I can’t even imagine before that. My grandma was telling me these stories about how she was a cheer captain in school because that was the only sport they offered to girls. Being able to do the sports today, that used to only be available to men, is so amazing and I am super grateful. - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Jillian Bremont. Sophomore, Redmond High School: “I’ve played sports my entire life and I don’t even know what I would do if I didn’t have them. I am so glad that they [Title IX] are celebrating their 50th anniversary. That is so awesome! I can’t even imagine before that. My grandma was telling me these stories about how she was a cheer captain in school because that was the only sport they offered to girls. Being able to do the sports today, that used to only be available to men, is so amazing and I am super grateful.

College-level athletics was separated into the National Collegiate Athletic Association for men, and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. In 1981 the NCAA offered championships for women, causing many AIAW defections. The AIAW lost an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and would cease to exist by 1983. Schmidt-Devlin felt the AIAW was too cautious in advancing women's sports.

ChaCha Ramirez. Senior, Madras High School: (at right) Throughout my life sports have given me purpose and an outlet to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone. Without sports, I don’t think I would have made it as far as I have in life, especially with sports being a guiding hand for college." - Alyssa Castañeda. Junior, Madras High School (at left): “Sports have meant a lot to me throughout my life, especially watching my older brother play soccer growing up. It’s opened up many doors, and it’s given me new things to explore in life . Without sports, my life wouldn’t be the same, especially with my competitiveness and athleticism.” - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • ChaCha Ramirez. Senior, Madras High School: (at right) Throughout my life sports have given me purpose and an outlet to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone. Without sports, I don’t think I would have made it as far as I have in life, especially with sports being a guiding hand for college." Alyssa Castañeda. Junior, Madras High School (at left): “Sports have meant a lot to me throughout my life, especially watching my older brother play soccer growing up. It’s opened up many doors, and it’s given me new things to explore in life . Without sports, my life wouldn’t be the same, especially with my competitiveness and athleticism.”

"We quickly found out that the NCAA only wanted men at that point. And the AIAW were responsible for women, and their approach was that they have a section of high performing women, but this is more about opportunity, and participation, and we need to slow things down, so that we can allow more women's coaches to be developed and ready to lead women," Schmidt-Devlin said. "Rather than letting it evolve and letting high performing women have more opportunity quickly, if anything, they suppressed that, in my opinion."

Marin Montagne. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It has given me a lot of outlets, friendship wise. All my best friends are Volleyball players. I love all of them. I am really excited to go to college and do that too, knowing that I have all those connections already. I think it’s really great being able to play a sport that you love with your friends.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Marin Montagne. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It has given me a lot of outlets, friendship wise. All my best friends are Volleyball players. I love all of them. I am really excited to go to college and do that too, knowing that I have all those connections already. I think it’s really great being able to play a sport that you love with your friends.”

Schools have found crafty ways to be Title IX compliant, while remaining unequitable. Colleges are required to have about the same gender ratio among student athletes as they do in total enrollment. This process can be abused, as long-distance runners can be counted three times if they compete in cross county and indoor and outdoor track. Sports like football, where there's no gender-equivalent sport but where there are large teams, can lead to fewer less-profitable sports programs for men. Financial burdens also can justify cutting a program; during COVID, 460 college sports programs were cut nationwide citing lost revenue due to COVID, and Title IX has helped getting some of them reinstated, Bloomberg reported. There's an understanding that the NCAA is biased toward men's football and basketball, the organization's most profitable sports.

"There are ways that the universities are tricking the system so they can be in compliance," Schmidt-Devlin said. "Women's sports is still trying to figure out how to be a profitable business. And I think it's clearly on the way. Soccer, basketball, tennis, it's clearly on the way, but still, it's expensive for the universities."

Maggie Williams. Senior, Summit High School: “Sports have meant a lot since I have had a lot of special experiences with teammates and friends. I’ve just been able to go and meet new people and have fun competing. I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been a big part of my life.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Maggie Williams. Senior, Summit High School: “Sports have meant a lot since I have had a lot of special experiences with teammates and friends. I’ve just been able to go and meet new people and have fun competing. I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been a big part of my life.”

The many prongs of Title IX

Title IX is just 35 words, stating that, "no person in the United States shall, based on 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." It sets out broad guidelines that are still being expanded on. Though Title IX is still guiding women's collegiate athletics, it's become less of a focus over the past decade.

"It's really evolved, certainly gender equity in sports and other academic facilities, athletic facilities are still a big part of it, but its primary focus now tends to be on five topical areas: sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating, domestic violence and stalking," said Alicia Moore, Central Oregon Community College's Title IX Coordinator. "All the changes that we've seen from the Obama administration and the Trump administration all focus on those particular topics."

Ava Carry McDonald, Senior, Summit High School:  “Sports have really helped me build confidence. Specifically, track has taught me about building strength and not just working out to change my body shape, which has been important. It’s been a great way for me to deal with mental health. It’s been a really good outlet, a way to meet friends and overall, a really positive experience in my life.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Ava Carry McDonald, Senior, Summit High School: “Sports have really helped me build confidence. Specifically, track has taught me about building strength and not just working out to change my body shape, which has been important. It’s been a great way for me to deal with mental health. It’s been a really good outlet, a way to meet friends and overall, a really positive experience in my life.”


Those topics are typically addressed in requirements when investigating instances of harassment, assault, domestic violence and stalking. Over 25% of women in college report some form of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct while in college, slightly less than college-aged women not in school but much higher than the 7% reported among men in college. Staff must report any violation they witness to a Title IX coordinator.

"My role then is to facilitate the process where we have people who are trained individually to do an investigation of the situation, and then we have folks who are trained to be a hearing officer and decision makers," Moore said.

Marley Hardgrave. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It’s been a huge part of my life. I don’t really remember any year of my life where I haven’t been doing anything active. It’s always been a way to make friends and stay active. Volleyball specifically, has brought me so much happiness since middle school.” - ERICA DURTSCHI
  • Erica Durtschi
  • Marley Hardgrave. Senior, Bend Senior High School: “It’s been a huge part of my life. I don’t really remember any year of my life where I haven’t been doing anything active. It’s always been a way to make friends and stay active. Volleyball specifically, has brought me so much happiness since middle school.”

Title IX can be amended by executive order, and both Donald Trump and Barack Obama made significant changes to the law. Obama first broadened the scope requiring schools to investigate cases of sexual assault and harassment, and Trump expanded its authority to include off-campus incidents. Moore said one way she'd like to see Title IX become more proactive is in increasing resources in staffing and training toward prevention and awareness. She also feels the process is too legalistic, and that Oregon's existing harassment laws are already stronger than the bar to become a Title IX violation.

"In Oregon our sexual harassment laws have a much lower bar, and what we're finding is when situations come forward is that they definitely violate state level laws," Moore said.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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