Dr. Bernice Sandler was honored for her part in bringing about Title IX legislation during the 2012 NCAA National Championship game between Baylor and Notre Dame in Denver. (photo by Kelly Kline)
Dr. Bernice Sandler was honored for her part in bringing about Title IX legislation during the 2012 NCAA National Championship game between Baylor and Notre Dame in Denver. (photo by Kelly Kline)

Forty years later: The impact of Bernice Sandler on Title IX

June 20, 2012 - 8:54am

On June 23, 40 years ago, Congress passed the Education Amendments of 1972, and a week later it was signed into law by Richard Nixon. 

The bill, first introduced in Congress by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana who co-authored the legislation with Represeentative Patsy Mink of Hawaii, included a small portion called the Equal Opportunity in Education Act which stated: "No 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." 

The provision came to be known as Title IX.  The amendment gives female athletes, among others, the right to equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions that receive federal funds, from elementary schools to colleges and universities.

Mink was the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. Her inspiration for drafting the Title IX legislation came from the work of Bernice Sandler, a part-time professor at the University of Maryland.

In 1969, Sandler had just finished her doctorate and was seeking full-time employment as a professor.  There were seven openings at Maryland, but despite being very qualified Sandler wasn't considered for any of them. When she inquired about being overlooked, she was told, "You come on too strong for a woman."  Crushed by the explanation, Sandler nearly accepted the reasoning until her husband pointed out it was "sex discrimination."

Armed with a new sense of purpose, Sandler began researching discrimination against women at major universities and soon filed a formal complaint with the Department of Labor against the University of Maryland and more than 250 other institutions. This led to the first Congressional hearing on the education and employment of women, held by Representative Edith Green during the summer of 1970.  Over seven days of hearings, the Congressional Committee heard significant evidence of discrimination, resulting in amendments to the Civil Rights Act as well as a proposal directly addressing equality in education that was eventually introduced as Title IX. During the hearings, evidence of inequality in athletics was also discussed, though the primary focus at the time was discrimination in the admission of female students and the hiring and promotion of female faculty and staff.

The legislation gave educational institutions a six-year period within which to bring themselves into compliance with the new law and regulations that were promulgated by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to implement the legislation. After the amendment was signed into law, it went through a number of legal challenges and congressional reviews, but ultimately the amendment stood and in 1978, educational institutions were required to comply with the law. 

Today, Former Senator Bayh is a speaker and guest of honor as the White House Council on Women and Girls celebrates the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Other guests include WNBA president Laurel Richie, tennis great Billie Jean King and Shoni Schimmel of the University of Louisville women's basketball team. The event at the White House will highlight the widespread impact of Title IX -- and eactly what is that impact? 

Since Title IX was implemented, female participation in high school sports has risen 970 percent. The most recent study by the National Federation of State High School Associations shows that 3,114,091 girls participated in sports in 2008-09 -- a dramatic increase from 294,015 participants in 1972.

The rise isn't as impressive at the NCAA level, but it is still significant, according to statistics from the Women's Sports Foundation: 29,977 in 1972, to 186,460 in the 2009-10 school year -- a 522 percent increase.

The courage and conviction held by Sandler, Green, Mink, Bayh and many others has forever changed the lives of millions of young women.

Timeline of Title IX

June 23, 1972
Title IX of the Education Amendments is enacted by Congress and is signed into law by Richard Nixon. The sponsors of Title IX include Birch Bayh (Senate) and Edith Green (House of Representatives). Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid.

May 20, 1974
Senator John Tower proposes the “Tower Amendment,” which would exempt revenue-producing sports from Title IX compliance. The amendment is rejected.

July 1974
In lieu of Senator Tower's failed amendment, Senator Jacob Javits submits an amendment directing HEW to issue regulations that provide for "reasonable provisions considering the nature of particular sports” (e.g., event-management needs, etc.) that clarifies that event and uniform expenditures on sports with larger crowds or more expensive equipment do not have to be matched in sports without similar needs.

May 27, 1975
President Gerald Ford signs the Title IX athletics regulations and submits them for congressional review.

June 1975
House Bill 8394 is introduced, which proposes that sports revenues first be used to offset the cost of that sport, and only then to support other sports. The proposed change would effectively alter Title IX's coverage in athletics. This bill dies in committee before reaching the House floor.

July 21, 1975
Congress reviews and approves Title IX regulations and rejects resolutions that would have weakened the athletics regulations. Title IX federal regulations are issued in the area of athletics. High schools and colleges are given three years, and elementary schools one year, to comply.

February 17, 1976
The NCAA challenges the legality of Title IX.

July 15, 1977
Three senators introduce a bill proposing to exclude revenue-producing sports from Title IX coverage. The bill dies in committee before reaching the Senate floor.

HEW issues proposed policy “Title IX and Intercollegiate Athletics” for notice and comment.

July 21, 1978
Deadline for high schools and colleges to comply with Title IX athletics requirements.

December 11, 1979
HEW issues final policy interpretation on “Title IX and Intercollegiate Athletics.” Rather than relying exclusively on a presumption of compliance standard, the final policy focuses on each institution's obligation to provide equal opportunity and details the factors to be considered in assessing actual compliance (Participation requirements are currently referred to as the "Three-Prong Test").

The Department of Education is established and given oversight of Title IX through the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

February 28, 1984
The Supreme Court, in Grove City v. Bell, limits the scope of Title IX, effectively taking away coverage of athletics except for athletic scholarships. The Court concludes that Title IX only applies to specific programs (e.g., Office of Student Financial Aid) that receive federal funds, rather than to all of the programs at institutions that are directly or indirectly federally funded. Under this interpretation, most athletic departments would not be covered.

March 22, 1988
The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 is enacted into law over the veto of President Ronald Reagan. This act reverses Grove City, restoring Title IX's institution-wide coverage. If any program or activity in an educational institution receives federal funds, all of the institution's programs and activities must comply with Title IX.

September 6, 1988
A Temple University Title IX lawsuit, won by female athletes, gives new direction to athletic departments regarding their budgets, scholarships, and participation rates of male and female athletes.

February 26, 1992
In Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Supreme Court rules that monetary damages are available under Title IX. Previously, only injunctive relief was available (i.e., the institution would be enjoined from discriminating in the future).

Shortly after the Franklin decision, the NCAA completes and publishes a landmark Gender-Equity Study of its member institutions.

The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) is passed, requiring that any co-educational institution of higher education that participates in any federal student financial aid program and that sponsors an intercollegiate athletics program must disclose certain information concerning its intercollegiate athletics program. Under the EADA, annual reports are required.

January 16, 1996
OCR issues a clarification of the three-part “Effective Accommodation Test” that reiterates the requirements of the policy interpretation that institutions may choose any one of three independent tests to demonstrate that they are effectively accommodating the participation needs of the underrepresented gender.

October 1, 1996
All institutions of higher education must make available specific information on their intercollegiate athletics department, as required by the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.

November 21, 1996
A federal appeals court upholds a lower court's ruling in Cohen v. Brown University, holding that Brown illegally discriminated against female athletes. Both courts rejected Brown's defense that it did not violate Title IX because women are less interested in sports than men. Many of the arguments offered by Brown are similar to those relied upon by colleges and universities all over the country.

February 20, 2001
The Supreme Court issues a decision in Brentwood v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, holding that a high school athletic association is a "state actor" and thus subject to the requirements imposed on governments under the U.S. Constitution. This means, for example, that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment applies to athletic associations in gender equity suits.

December 17, 2001
Communities for Equity v. Michigan High School Athletic Association is decided, holding a state athletic association liable under Title IX, the Equal Protection Clause, and Michigan state law for discriminating against girls by forcing six girls' sports, but no boys' sports, teams to compete in nontraditional and/or disadvantageous seasons.

February 2002
The National Wrestling Coaches Association, College Gymnastics Association, and the U.S. Track Coaches Association, along with several other groups representing male athletes and alumni of wrestling programs at Bucknell, Marquette, and Yale, filed suit alleging that Title IX regulations and policies are unconstitutional because of their allegedly discriminatory effect on male student-athletes.

May 29, 2002
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to dismiss on narrow procedural grounds a complaint filed in federal court against the U.S. Department of Education attacking the three-prong test developed for schools to determine their compliance with Title IX in women's athletics programs.

June 27, 2002
The Commission on Opportunities in Athletics is established in order "to collect information, analyze issues and obtain broad public input directed at improving the application of current Federal standards for measuring equal opportunity for men and women and boys and girls to participate in athletics under Title IX. The Commission will recommend to the Secretary, in a written report, whether those standards should be revised, and if so, how the standards should be revised. The Commission will also recommend other steps that might be taken to improve the effectiveness of Title IX and to maintain and build upon the extraordinary progress that has resulted from its passage 30 years ago."

July 11, 2003
The Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education issued a “Further Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance Regarding Title IX Compliance.” The Further Clarification reaffirms the validity and effectiveness of long-standing administrative regulations and policies governing this application.

March 17, 2005
The Department of Education issued a policy guidance (“the Additional Clarification”) that significantly weakens Title IX. Schools can now simply send out an e-mail survey to their female students, asking them what additional sports they might have the interest and ability in playing. And if the survey responses do not show enough interest or ability, they do not have to add any sports –- and are presumed in compliance with Title IX.

April 20, 2010
The Department of Education issued a policy guidance which rescinded the aforementioned “Additional Clarification” and all related documents including the recommended survey.

April 4, 2011
The Department of Education issued a policy guidance which made clear that Title IX’s protections against sexual harassment and sexual violence apply to all students, including athletes. It addresses athletics departments in particular when it requires schools to use the same procedures that apply to all students to resolve sexual violence complaints involving student athletes.

Timeline provided by the Women's Sports Foundation.