Feminists call for a gender equity office in the Ministry of Education

A January 2017 protest against Betsy DeVos in DC (Ted eytan / Flickr)

Women’s rights organizations call on the Biden-Harris administration to create an office for gender equality within the education ministry to fulfill the long-awaited promise of educational equity guaranteed by Title IX of the 1972 education changes.

“There has never been a lot of federal leadership to implement Title IX,” says Dr. Sue Klein, director of education equity for the Feminist Majority Foundation, who is one of the leaders. of effort. “This office would fix that.”

The need for proactive leadership on gender equality in education is more urgent than ever, since the Trump administration gutted Title IX protections for gender equality in education over the years. last four years.

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repealed Obama-era guidelines requiring schools to effectively investigate and address sexual harassment and assault on students, then released new regulations which makes it much more difficult for survivors to file complaints and obtain protection. DeVos too removed important guidance documents protect the rights of transgender students and explain the roles and responsibilities of Title IX coordinators.

A gender equity office within the Ministry of Education would be responsible for reversing this damage, developing new gender equity initiatives in schools, and addressing pressing issues faced by women and men. girls in education, including access to STEM education, athletics, pregnancy-related discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault. It would also focus on eliminating aggravated discrimination based on race, disability, immigration, English learners, LGBTQ status and poverty.

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In a letter Sent to the Biden-Harris Educational Transition Team on Jan.8, more than 115 organizations have urged the Biden-Harris administration to act quickly to establish an office for gender equity and to appoint a special assistant for the Gender Equity as Director, who would report directly to Biden’s Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona.

“The establishment of an office for gender equity is essential to restore and guarantee opportunities, security and gender equity in education,” the letter said. “The Office for Gender Equity is immediately needed to seek public input on the revision of Title IX regulations on harassment and sexual assault and other repealed guidelines on transgender people and title coordinators IX. “

Organizations signing the letter included the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), the National Organization for Women, the YWCA, the American Association of University Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., the National Partnership for Women and Families. , the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Center for Women’s Rights, as well as many state and local organizations.

According to Klein, the office would create a “proactive gender infrastructure of Title IX coordinators and gender experts” with state Title IX coordinators, Title IX coordinators school district and hopefully a Title IX coordinator in each post-secondary and K-12 networked school. for training, assessment and, if necessary, the application of Title IX and laws and best practices relating to civil rights.

“The vision would be to have a coordinated system where Title IX coordinators at all levels strengthen and support each other and where educators, parents, students and interested community members participate in the complete eradication of even unintentional sex discrimination and gender stereotypes in and through education, ”Klein said.

As envisioned by advocates, the office would ensure full implementation and enforcement of Title IX, with a focus on protecting the rights of women and girls of color, pregnant and parental students, LGBTQ students, disabled students and English language learners.

Reporting directly to the Secretary of Education, this centralized office would participate in policy development, training and federal coordination of gender equity activities of the Ministry of Education and parallel women’s issues offices in other federal agencies, including federal health agencies, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and the US Department of State.

The office would also make high-quality resources on gender equity, including research, policy, training and student materials available to the public through an online resource center at gender equity, serving people at all levels, from kindergarten to higher education.

The letter also urges Biden and Harris to support the passage of the Patsy T. Mink and Louise K. Slaughter Gender Equity Education Act of 2019 (S. 1964/HR 3513), presented by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-Ca.). The law would create an office for gender equity by law and authorize funding of $ 80 million, mainly for grants to school districts to support Title IX coordinators and others in the implementation of the title. IX.

Now that Democrats are in control of Congress, it should be possible to pass a new, expanded version of the EGEA.

“What I hope,” Klein said, “is that there is within every school and district a group of people who work with the Title IX coordinator, who know what Title IX requires and who are on the lookout for any kind of gender discrimination in their school that could be proactively stopped before it even becomes a Title IX complaint.

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