Patsy Mink's Title IX legacy threatened by new rules
TODAY MARKS the 34th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark civil rights law guaranteeing equality in education for girls and women. This is a day to celebrate the author of Title IX, Hawaii's late beloved Rep. Patsy T. Mink. As her friend and colleague in Congress for more than 10 years, I miss Patsy every day. I know my feelings are shared by other members of Congress, tens of thousands of Hawaii residents and millions of people across the nation. Never was there an elected official who devoted herself to the public interest more passionately, more effectively or with more commitment than Patsy Mink.
Unfortunately, Patsy's legacy has been placed in jeopardy by the Bush administration. On March 17, 2005, the Department of Education, without notice or public input, issued a new Title IX policy -- under the guise of a "Clarification" -- that creates a major loophole through which schools can evade their obligation to provide equal opportunity in sports. The policy allows schools to gauge female students' interest in athletics by doing nothing more than conducting an e-mail survey.
ADMINISTRATORS can claim -- in these days of excessive e-mail spam -- that a failure to respond to the survey shows a lack of interest in playing sports. The so-called "Clarification" eliminates schools' obligation to look broadly and proactively at whether they are satisfying women's interests in sports, and it will perpetuate the cycle of discrimination in sports to which women have been subjected.
The "Clarification" violates basic principles of equality and threatens to reverse the enormous progress women and girls have made in sports since the enactment of Title IX in 1972.
Title IX has been a monumental success. It is the standard that for 34 years has ensured equal opportunity for women in athletics and contributed to the athletic and educational achievement of hundreds of thousands of young women. Because of Title IX, young women's participation in athletics has increased 400 percent at the college level and 800 percent in high schools. Girls and women who participate in sports receive great physical and psychological benefits, including higher levels of confidence, stronger self-images and lower levels of depression.
DEMOCRATS are fighting to save Title IX by urging the Bush administration to repeal these new rules that threaten the gains women and girls have made in sports. On June 22, 2005, I joined more than 140 House Democrats in writing to President Bush, urging him to withdraw the new rules. If these new rules are not withdrawn, the enormous progress we have made under Title IX can all be lost.
So far, unfortunately, the Bush administration has failed to reverse course. Our nation's women and girls deserve no less than the reversal of these rules.
We call on the president to work with Democrats to ensure that Title IX continues to open the doors of opportunity for today's young women and for generations to come. Patsy Mink devoted her life to the core values of fairness and equality. Our challenge now is to defend her achievements and build on her legacy.
Neil Abercrombie represents the 1st District (Urban Oahu) in the U.S. House of Representatives.