Be a Hero for Equity: Protect Title IX

By Dr. M. Elizabeth Hendrix
This is your chance to be an “everyday hero,” a hero to someone who has suffered or is suffering sexual harassment. Will you be a champion for those who really need your help? Students should not have to experience sexual harassment or violence. However, I was one of countless teenage girls who faced sexual harassment (both physical and verbal harassment) in my Alabama high school. According to a 2011 survey of 1,965 students, nearly half experienced some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-11 school year. Also, the majority of those students said it had negative impacts on them. Victims often experience decreased productivity in school and increased absenteeism. In my case, it led me to drop out of high school altogether despite the fact that I was in the advanced classes and honors program. My teachers did nothing to stop my daily sexual harassment! While I missed school, I stayed away from my sexual harassers and the embarrassment of being physically and verbally harassed in front of my peers. I felt safer at home than I did at school despite the fact that it was impeding my education.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in any institution or program that receives federal funding. However, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed a new set of regulations that would fundamentally weaken Title IX and put equity at risk. The new regulations would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, make it more difficult to report sexual abuse and harassment, and limit the required response by school officials (to potentially exclude much of the abuse that students like me experience in schools). Also, the rules would make it much harder for students to come forward and receive the support they need. I was a lucky one. My journey was a GED to PhD in the end, but some others are not so fortunate after their abuse.
The American Association of University Women stands with survivors (like me) and remains committed to protecting and defending Title IX as well as pursuing its vigorous enforcement. We encourage you to join us in speaking up and fighting back against this attack on Title IX. You can participate in our Branch activities through the Public Policy Committee and/or joining Lobby Corp as it works at the national and state level to pass necessary legislation.
Please be a hero for equity and for those suffering from sexual harassment. We need your voice raised about this issue. Thank you! Superheroes unite for justice!

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