This series is based on a full-length feature appearing in the Winter 2016 issue of Ms. Subscribe today to get a copy and become a member of the Ms. community!
Since winning passage of Title IX, feminists have fought to have the law fully enforced and have turned back repeated efforts to narrow its application. Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination in educational programs and institutions that receive federal funding has been a key driver of women’s progress over the past 44 years. But now, a Republican-controlled federal government threatens current and future gains.
Republicans are determined to reverse the Obama administration’s use of Title IX to hold schools accountable for addressing campus sexual assault—when gender-based violence is clearly a type of sex discrimination falling within the law’s purview.
Even in the K-12 setting, Republican policies have worked to reinforce sex discrimination in education. George W. Bush-era regulations have allowed girls and boys to again be segregated into separate public-school classrooms, even within coed schools, and to establish single-sex schools without comparable coed facilities. Most such programs are based on the discredited notion that boys and girls learn and develop so differently that they require different teaching methods. One Florida school district allows well-behaved boys in single-sex classrooms to play with electronics, while the girls’ classrooms give dabs of perfume for good behavior. This is not an exaggeration but an actual example. Our public schools should not promote such blatant sex stereotypes— which have a particularly harmful impact on girls and on trans and gender-nonconforming students.
Additionally, Republicans are now poised to press forward with troubling school voucher proposals. President-elect Trump plans to further destabilize the public education system by raiding already underfunded public school coffers to benefit private, charter, magnet, religious and home-based schools. Trump has pledged to redirect $20 billion in federal funds for his plan—a potential windfall for private businesses running charter and religious schools—at the expense of the majority of students, who will be attending under-resourced public schools.
While defending against these attacks, we must also resist the criminalization of our classrooms. Zero-tolerance policies and overreliance on “school resource officers” (a euphemism for police) disrupts students’ education and funnels them into the criminal justice system, with a starkly disproportionate impact on boys and girls of color.