Author Archives: Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

What’s Going on with Title IX? Better or Worse for Women in Education?

by ZontaDoris

Betsy DeVos

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act has come up for intense scrutiny this year with the change in presidential administration and appointment of Secretary Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education. DeVos, pictured at right in her official photo, has proceeded quickly to re-craft the policies and protocols for dealing with incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence on college campuses.

DeVos explained her intent in this Washington Post article by Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson published in September:

…she vowed Thursday to replace what she branded the “failed system” of campus sexual assault enforcement, to ensure fairness for victims and the accused.

“Instead of working with schools … ,” DeVos said, “the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights.”

“We must do better because the current approach isn’t working,” she said.

In the same article, victim rights advocates reacted to Devos’ proposing a turnabout from the 45-year history of Title IX and recent Obama administration’s expansions of protection in this way:

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center  called the speech “a blunt attack on survivors of sexual assault. . . .  It sends a frightening message to all students: your government does not have your back if your rights are violated.”

Catherine Lhamon, who headed Education’s civil rights office under Obama, said, “The speech pretty clearly sent a message that sexual assault will not be taken seriously by this administration. That could not be more damaging.”

This controversy made me realize how little I really know about the 45-year history of Title IX and how we became ensnared in the current ditch it/keep it polemics.

I began researching Title IX. One thing I learned is that athletics did not start out as its primary focus. Nor was it sold on the basis of stopping sexual violence against women per se.

Rep. Edith Green, and later Congresswoman Patsy Mink and Sen. Birch Bayh offered the legislation to extend the reach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to encourage gender equity in educational programs receiving federal financial assistance. I recommend this article by Steve Wulf writing for ESPN detailing the history of Title IX. It started with a part-time lecturer who wished to enter the tenured faculty track at the University of Maryland. The history shows how single-minded individuals can launch enormous waves of social and legal change.

When Congress approved Title IX of the Education Amendments, and President Nixon signed it into law in 1972, it did not mention athletics. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education offers this excerpt from the new law:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of 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.

This Title IX website explains that Title IX protections apply to ten different areas in education to ensure educational equity in men and women’s access to 1) Higher education 2) Athletics under Title IX 3) Career education 4) Education for pregnant and parenting students 5) Employment 6) Learning environment 7) Math and science 8) sexual harassment 9) Standardized testing and 10) Technology. 

Clearly, without Title IX, our educational settings would be very different and less supportive of women’s safety, growth, and opportunities.

For instance, not nearly as many women would have been able to become professional athletes, enroll in engineering and medical programs, or even been able to complete high school. Why? Because women’s sports opportunities in K-16 education prior to Title IX were limited. There was no on-ramp to college or professional sports for women. Biased standardized tests that women did not perform as well on as men kept them out of certain graduate programs. Low expectations for women to do well in fields dominated by men also foreclosed women’s entry into these professions. Women are nurses, men are doctors stereotypes flourished. And  because they were already parents or about to give birth while in high school, many girls had to drop out because the schools did not want them to continue or because there were no programs to support young parents with academic ambitions.

Because Title IX protections were and are critical to millions of girls and women, this is the first of three blog posts on the topic. This post speaks to the history of Title IX as captured in the narrative above and timeline below. The next blog post will discuss the impact of Title IX, especially as it relates to athletics, the best documented area of change. The third blog post will delve into the arguments offered by DeVos and others who wish to “reform” Title IX to make it work more fairly for victims and the accused.

In this way, I hope we Zontians, and our friends reading this blog, will be able to speak from a deeper  perspective as challenges to Title IX pop up in Washington, DC and elsewhere. I finished growing up as Title IX came to be. The next generation of women did benefit and I intend to help the best parts of Title IX survive to enable subsequent generations of girls and women realize their dreams, too.  

The timeline details the biggest threats and opportunities to Title IX over its  45-years of existence. Sources that I relied on are listed below.

Resources used for this blog:

ESPN, “Title IX: Thirty Words that Changed Everything, Steve Wulf, April 2012.

Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, Policy Guidance, Dear Colleague Letters and history of Title IX website, History of Title IX

Washington Post, “DeVos decries ‘failed system’ on campus sexual assault, vows to replace it,” Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson, September 2017.

Wikipedia, history of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX

Pictures of Yes/No signs and pregnant woman from Pixabay

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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Stopping Child Marriage Around the World Including Florida

by ZontaDoris

Sometimes our club focuses so much on local needs of women that we don’t always appreciate that our club is chartered by an international women’s service and advocacy  organization.

Fortunately, a member suggested that we go to the movies at our November meeting to learn more about Zonta International’s work in developing countries.

ZI offers videos on its website to show how it provides “training, education, health, sanitation, agricultural and micro-credit assistance to women, primarily through projects implemented by the agencies of the United Nations and other recognized non-governmental organizations.”

One of the touching videos concerns Zonta’s efforts to delay marriage for young girls in Niger. A majority of girls are married before the age of 18 in that country. Child brides are also common in Yemen, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Girls forced into marrying so young are robbed of many things. 

For instance, their education usually stops when they marry; dropping out of school at age 12 or 14 forecloses economic opportunities and choices for themselves and their children. Their health suffers as they become pregnant much too young; their bodies are often not able to bear a child without complications or injury. The young brides may be isolated from their parents, siblings, and peers. Many become a ward of much older adult men who may abuse and torture them without consequence.

The <4 minute video below horrifies and saddens. Please watch it anyway to get informed. Then keep reading below for a look at child brides in this country.

Yes, you read the last statement correctly.

Child marriage happens across the United States because our state laws allow marriage under age 18. There is sometimes no minimum age specified in law. Parents may consent to a young daughter marrying the man who has impregnated her. If a girl is already pregnant or has borne a child, she can marry with a judge’s approval EVEN IF HER PARENTS SHOULD DISAGREE WITH THIS ACTION. More likely, the parents will approve of the marriage because they blame the girl (AS IF she is the responsible party!) and want someone else to take care of her and her child.

Unchained at Last, a national organization created to outlaw child marriage in the U.S., has analyzed the frequency and reasons for child brides here. Their data show that between 2000 and 2010, Tennessee allowed girls as young as 10 years of age to marry. Florida has let 13 year old girls marry. And these girls aren’t marrying 13 year old boys. They are often marrying men who are in their twenties.

Unchained at Last is leading a statewide coalition to change Florida laws to prohibit all marriages for girls and boys under 18 years of age. The coalition includes the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Palm Beach, Human Rights Watch, AHA Foundation, FIU’s Initiative Against Gender Violence, NOW-FL, The Children’s Campaign and Surly Feminists for the Revolution. The Zonta Club of Pinellas County also joined. Other Zonta Clubs are being urged by the ZI District Advocacy Committee to get involved, too.

HB 335 (Nunez, White) and CS/SB 140 (Benacquisto) were approved easily in the first committees of reference. Now they await  discussion and votes in the Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate. House bills may be tracked here and Senate bills on this website.

The week of December 4th is the last committee meeting week before the Legislature convenes in January. These bills are not scheduled for committee review next week which means they won’t come up again in committee until early in 2018.

Nevertheless, keep checking back on this blog to get updates. As soon as we know committee agendas, we will urge you to contact state lawmakers to encourage them to approve the bills as is–to make 18 the minimum age for marriage in Florida.

Remember, girls should not be forced into marriage by their parents because the girls are pregnant. The girls were molested by predatory men. If any legal action needs to happen, the men who impregnated the girls should be charged with child molestation and sexual assault.   

Girls who are pregnant do not gain legal rights by marrying. They are still minors who happen to be married and are unable to divorce abusive spouses. 

Too many examples exist of girls who marry before age 18 being abused. Unchained at Last has documented that girls who marry are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouses than women who marry at age 21 or later.

This recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune outlines why our elected state representatives should update our laws to protect our  girls from the legal barbwire and abusive practices of child marriage. We all need to help our blooming young women finish growing up before they marry. 

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The UNICEF picture of the child bride is located here.

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb


Paint for Paws raises $3,000 for family pet sheltering at CASA

by ZontaDoris

Feedback on our Paint for Paws fundraiser is ALL positive!

In case you missed our fabulous fundraiser,our purpose was to help CASA, the domestic violence shelter in St. Petersburg, start its family pet sheltering program onsite to keep loving family members–including canines and felines–FULLY together and safe from abuse.

Friday night, two Paint for Paws artists told me, again, more than four weeks after the event, how much they enjoyed the evening. The friends of other Zonta Club members are giving similar praise for the event on October 5 at Painting with a Twist

Here is what we are cheering about: 

  • We sold out Painting with a Twist. The capacity is 55 guests. We actually had more than 55 people there because some of us organizers gave our easels to guests to use.
  • The crew at Painting with a Twist–owner Marvin Gay, manager Joshua French, and art instructor Adrianna Auriemma are wonderful hosts and partners for this kind of event. They kept us informed of our growing reservations list. They helped us plan pre-event how we would set up our food and auction tables. They gave us early access to set up our 25+ auction baskets and food and they adjusted quickly to keep things moving well during the event. Joshua and Adrianna, equipped with different instructional styles, each came across well to the guests.
  • Kathy Scott from CASA spoke to the crowd. She explained that the pet sheltering had been a dream of Linda Osmundson, the former ED who passed away in January 2016 as the new CASA state-of-the-art domestic violence shelter came into being. Room had been set aside for a kennel to be built on the site. The catch was that new money had to be raised apart from the funds for sheltering human survivors of domestic violence.
  • So many businesses and individuals helped underwrite the event with donations of items and services for auction baskets. (See our slider on the home page for the logos of sponsors, supporters, and pals.) We also had plenty of tasty food and wine. Cicis delivered pizza–savory and cinnamon-sweet–and Subway donated sandwiches. We even had a special chocolate cake baked by cake artist Jazmin Demerjian to raise even more money and eat by the end of the evening.
  • We raised over $3,000 for the Zonta Foundation through our raffle sales, silent auction, and donations on our website with our new donations button. Now we are talking with John Biesinger at CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) to find a good time to present a $3,000 check to CASA to keep domestic violence survivors’ families intact while they are living in the CASA shelter. CASA will become only the 8th DV shelter in Florida to house pets onsite with their families.  
  • We are thrilled with the outcomes we achieved. Thank you to everyone who contributed their time, energy, and money to make it successful. We could not have done it without you!

Picture of brushes from Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb