In this series, I look at some of the protections afforded by Title IX that have received less attention in the media and political arena than Title IX’s applications to equity in athletics and campus sexual assault. Part 1 looked at Title IX’s protection against employment discrimination. Part 2 examined how Title IX protects students from harassment based on sex stereotyping.
Title IX prohibits educational programs that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex. Because discrimination by definition means treating one person differently from another, there are only a few limited areas in which schools can draw explicitly gender-based distinctions and not run afoul of Title IX.
One area where schools have historically had explicitly gendered policies is in their dress codes. When Title IX was initially enacted, the implementing regulations prohibited sex distinctions in “rules of appearance.” This regulation seemed to squarely prohibit the implementation of gender-specific dress and grooming codes. However, the Reagan administration revoked those regulations in 1982, fewer than ten years after they had been issued, indicating that differentiating on the basis of sex in “rules of appearance” might very well be permissible under Title IX.