The Bush administration’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics held its first hearing on Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education, in Atlanta yesterday. The hearings opened with three panels of appointed speakers including Title IX author the Honorable Birch Bayh, a former US Senator from Indiana. “Title IX is the most significant contribution to women’s equality since the ratification of the 19th amendment,” Bayh said. In the last 30 years, Title IX has increased women’s participation in sports by more than 800 percent at the high school level and approximately 400 percent at the collegiate level. Title IX has also made possible the integration of medical schools and law schools.
The commission was created by Bush allegedly to ensure that Title IX allows fairness for both sexes, however, the Feminist Majority and other leading women’s groups are calling the commission the newest attempt to weaken a landmark federal law that eliminated gender discrimination in education. While co-chaired by former WNBA star Cynthia Cooper, the commission is stacked with representatives from NCAA Division I schools - many of which are still not in compliance with Title IX after 30 years.
Despite Title IX’s enormous gains for women and girls, opponents attacked the law during the public comment session following yesterday’s panel discussion. Wrestlers and male gymnasts made numerous false allegations about Title IX, erroneously claiming that Title IX diminishes athletic opportunities for men and boys and state that women and girls do not want to participate in athletics. Aimee Boone, senior campus organizer at the Feminist Majority Foundation, also testified at the commission’s hearings, citing her 18 years of participation in athletics as further proof of women and girls’ desire to play sports. “I can't imagine what my life would be without sports,” Boone said as reported in USA Today. “We are not at equality yet. We have come very far, but we still have much further to go.”
The commission has scheduled five hearings around the country on Title IX – four of which are open to the public. The next hearing will be held in Chicago on September 17-18 with another to follow in Colorado Springs on October 22-23.