Title IX celebrated its 40th birthday on June 23. This landmark civil rights law is designed to promote gender equity in all fields of education. It states simply, "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 receiving Federal financial assistance."
Although sports is not mentioned specifically, it has been the major area of focus and so far it has achieved its overall goals to a great extent.
Numerous studies over these past 40 years consistently indicate the benefits of sports opportunities for girls. Their academic achievement is higher than average and their self esteem and social skills are also higher. The health benefits are obvious. Being physically active at a young age sets a pattern for life-long habits which promote good health throughout life.
In recognition of Title IX's purpose, the Jamestown AAUW established Get in the Game in 2000. Held in March, the event also celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which celebrated its 26th anniversary on February 7th 2012. All of this is part of a world-wide event known as International Girls' and Women's Day which is celebrated on March 8th.
Get in the Game is held with the cooperation of Jamestown Community College at its athletic facility, along with the assistance of other agencies. The official statement reads: "Get in the Game is a collaborative effort between local organizations to highlight female athletes, raise awareness about the connection between self-esteem and sports, encourage girls to participate in sports, promote equality for female athletes and form partnerships to support girls and women in sports".
The AAUW program is offered to girls in grades 4-7 in schools throughout the area. They rotate through 7-8 sports opportunities from 8 am to 4 pm. The sports have varied throughout the years, but have included basketball, soccer, rugby, kayaking, track, gymnastics, self-defense, and baseball to name a few. Presenters and leaders of these activities donate their time and expertise. AAUW members volunteer in numerous supportive roles to make GITG a positive experience for the girls who participate. Comments from the girls at the close of the event are almost always universally glowing.
Title IX was enacted to promote equal opportunity in all fields and levels of education, from grade school through college. Educational facilities which receive federal funding must offer equal opportunities for sports and other endeavors for girls and for boys or lose the federal dollars. Other areas which need to be addressed more fully include sexual harassment, bullying, and the STEM academic opportunities.
Reports indicate that nearly half of all middle school students are sexually harassed. Bullying is in the news on an almost daily basis. Women are greatly underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM)...to say nothing of their underrepresentation in government at all levels. Occupational segregation still exists even though gains have been achieved. All of these will be receiving increased attention in the future.
As we bid Title IX a "Happy Birthday," we are grateful for the equal opportunities it has enabled for the girls and young women participating in sports in the facilities throughout our educational systems. They set an example for success in Title IX's future endeavors. We look forward to continued advancements in achieving equality for girls and women in all areas of our society.
B. Dolores Thompson is City of Jamestown historian, Jamestown AAUW public policy chair, and long-time advocate of equal rights for women and for all minorities in our community.