This June will see the landmark Title IX civil rights law celebrate its 50th birthday, and no one is more pleased to commemorate the occasion than Dr. David Parrott.
A seasoned educational administrator, David Parrott holds a doctoral degree from the University of Louisville with dual concentrations in educational psychology and college student personnel. Among his other administrative and consulting accomplishments, he’s widely recognized for having a passion for teaching higher education law and for consulting with higher education entities in the application of law in their policies and practice – including Title IX.
“This is the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” Parrott explains. “It became effective on June 23, 1972, was co-authored by Congresswoman Patsy Mink, and was later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act following the death of Mink in 2002.” Parrott said that the “statute is concise in its language and direct in its message.” The actual language of the statute is: No person in the United States shall, based on 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.”
Parrott elaborated on the history of Title IX by noting the formulation of regulations initially in 1975, in conjunction with a series of Dear Colleague Letters issued by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which guided federal funds recipients such as universities and schools. Parrott noted, “after a series of Dear Colleague Letters interpreting Title IX were issued up through 2017 we were provided new regulations in 2020 that drive how we currently enforce the statute.”
David Parrott’s Extensive Title IX Expertise
Parrott has consulted extensively with colleges and universities in higher education law for over 25 years, has taught higher education law to masters and doctoral students at six institutions of higher education, has supervised the Title IX function at multiple institutions, and has served as Title IX and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator with the University of Louisville since 2019. This position places him in charge of all Title IX compliance activities including leading collaborative activities to draft policy and refine procedures that adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the regulation.
Parrott’s specific Title IX responsibilities with the University of Louisville include consulting with internal stakeholders to provide essential guidance, cultivating productive relationships with UofL general counsel and external counsel, and ensuring that critical training is provided to stakeholders including the assistant Title IX coordinator, deputy Title IX coordinators, and individual Title IX investigators. He also provides training to deans, vice presidents, department heads, students, and student leaders.
“The federal statute has concise language, but the regulations drive the statute,” says Parrott. “There are 2,000 pages of regulations that every university is responsible for complying with and my job is to make sure that the University of Louisville complies with those regulations.”
Parrott leverages an in-depth understanding of Title IX to complete his administrative and compliance duties. He is particularly well versed in the legal and regulatory changes that have affected Title IX over the years.
Title IX Understood
Most people associate the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act which was originally given the name Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and is commonly known as simply “Title IX” with helping to ensure gender equality in the world of college sports. And this was certainly one of the most immediate and profound effects of this groundbreaking federal civil rights law. Legislators specifically designed Title IX to address biases and unbalance in intercollegiate athletics. Parrott noted how proud he is to serve at his alma mater in this role and particularly in a year when the women’s basketball team is in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. “Title IX set the stage for women’s athletics to flourish at the collegiate level by facilitating the participation of younger females in grade school, middle school, and high school sports. We, the broader society, are the recipients of the health, leadership, inclusion, and competition benefits that Title IX has created. This is but one of the legacies of this statute.”
The protections that Title IX affords student-athletes are quite extensive. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) works to enforce the equal treatment provisions of Title IX in terms of equipment, supplies, coaching, practice times, game schedules, travel plans, daily allowances/per diems, tutoring access, publicity, promotions, and support services, as well as competition, practice, training, medical, housing, and dining facilities.
But the broad language of Title IX has implications that go far beyond the realm of college sports. It reads, “No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Title IX’s overarching principles and regulatory standards work to ensure no student is unjustly refused access to any program or activity that receives financial assistance from the U.S. federal government. This protection extends to varsity, club, and intramural athletic programs from elementary to post-secondary levels.
Furthermore, student-athletes aren’t the only people to benefit from the anti-discriminatory measures of Title IX. While the law has most often been viewed through the lens of athletics, policy interpretation has evolved significantly over the years to apply Title IX within all aspects of education.
Before Title IX Was Born
We have now been living with the benefits of Title IX for half a century. The average American may fail to grasp the unequal nature of student athletics and the tolerance for sex- and gender-based discrimination that occurred before the passage of Title IX in 1972.
Before Title IX, the sports world widely overlooked female athletes of all types and skill levels. They received a fraction of the support their male counterparts enjoyed. Colleges offered women precious few athletic scholarships, and there were no collegiate championships for women. Women’s athletic programs also struggled to secure proper funding for essential facilities and equipment. This inequity prevented countless female athletes from competing in the college arena. Just before the passage of Title IX, only 30,000 women were participating on NCAA teams. Compared to the 170,000 men who were in NCAA programs at that time, women were undeniably underserved and underrepresented in intercollegiate sports.
This discrepancy clearly illustrates the history of deeply embedded sexism that has long plagued the United States. Most experts agree that Title IX has proven an invaluable resource in the fight to reverse this systemic sexism. (As recently as 2021 even the NCAA was found to be engaged in systemic sexism by hosting a national tournament woefully lacking in providing equitable facilities, funding, and support for the women’s teams in the NCAA Tournament when compared to their counterpart men’s teams.)
A Short History of Title IX
Title IX began life as a bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate. After several days of deliberation, the Senate passed the bill by a margin of 63 to 15 on March 1, 1972. A little over two months later, the U.S. House of Representatives followed suit by a margin of 218 to 180. President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972.
In the words of David Parrott, “Title IX was viewed as an equity in sports law” upon its initial passage and for decades to come. “If you talked about Title IX in higher education before 2011, you were talking primarily about athletic issues,” he says. The primary focus of the law was ensuring that athletic programs provided “equitable access to athletic programs.”
This changed dramatically during the Barack Obama presidency when his administration released a letter of general guidance (Dear Colleague Letter) for the enforcement of Title IX. This 2011 Dear Colleague Letter cast Title IX in a more powerful light and expanded its purview to include all areas of education. The 2011 DCL made clear that Title IX had two main areas of focus: equity in athletics and prevention of and response to sexual harassment.
In its earliest months, the presidential administration of Donald Trump rescinded the Obama letter of general guidance and then released one of its own. Over three years, regulatory officials reversed some of the longstanding assumptions about Title IX and retooled it for the future by propagating extensive new regulations.
“They were approved and published in 2020,” Parrott recalls. “And we had 100 days to get in compliance. Every university scrambled to get in compliance with those 2,000 pages of regulations.”
Title IX Insights by David Parrott in Anticipation of Its 50th Anniversary
As America marks the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, it looks back on the rich history of the monumental law and celebrates the versatile document of civil rights it’s become today. In the world of student athletics and beyond, Title IX affords protection against a broad spectrum of prejudices and biases based on any issue of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also offers anti-discriminatory protection to women during pregnancy.
“The corrosive impact of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on college campuses and in the larger society is well documented,” said Parrott. He goes on to say: “It is incumbent upon the university to ensure that education, prevention, and response programs and systems are designed and consistently refined to serve the needs of stakeholders. We should aspire to eliminate sexual harassment on our campuses. As stated in associated case law, no one should have to run the gauntlet of sexual harassment as a condition to participating in a federally funded program.”
Broadly speaking, the various provisions of Title IX apply to any educational institution, facility, or agency that receives federal financial assistance as well as any entity that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Title IX has gone far beyond the world of college sports to affect roughly 17,600 local school districts and roughly 5,000 postsecondary entities, for-profit schools, charter schools, libraries, and museums.
Although Title IX has certainly come a long way, Parrott stresses that further refinement is needed to make it work as it should in the college setting and elsewhere. “The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights continues to provide guidance that significantly evolves the work of Title IX Offices and in many cases the work of Student Conduct Administrators. “As they continue to refine this guidance (new regulations from the Biden administration are on the horizon) the protections under Title IX for historically marginalized populations will likely be clarified,” said Parrott. Parrott elaborated: “Discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity is where I anticipate the Biden administration will emphasize their forthcoming regulations.”