Title IX Complaints Spiked Over 2 Decades

June 5, 2018

Complaints under the federal law barring gender discrimination in education increased at least fivefold from 1994 to 2014, and shifted in nature during that time from focusing predominantly on academics to encompassing athletics and sexual harassment in almost equal measure, too, a new study finds.

The study, by a Yale University graduate student, Celene Reynolds, in the journal Social Problems, found that the number of annual complaints hovered between 150 and 300 in the early part of that span. The number increased to 526 in 1999 and shot up to 1,379 in 2013, then to 1,446 in 2014. (The federal records Reynolds had access to stopped that year.) Reynolds attributes the increase to a broadening understanding of sex discrimination and asserts that more people are turning to tools like Title IX to address it.

Academic complaints -- such as equal access to college admission or classes -- remain the most frequently filed type, but athletic and sexual harassment complaints have become almost equally common.

Reynolds found that the type of institution matters when considering patterns of complaints.

“Perhaps most interesting is that the most selective schools and schools in states with higher levels of women’s representation in the Legislature face higher numbers of sexual harassment complaints,” she wrote. While the study doesn't specifically examine why this difference exists, Reynolds speculates that access to Title IX information and demographics of potential reporters could play a role.

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