Thursday, March 22, 2007

Title IX doesn't apply to high schools?

This is one of my "will sports writers please learn what Title IX is" posts.
The latest misinterpretation of Title IX is fairly egregious and comes from Andover, MA where Eagle Tribune sports writer Dave Dyer has written an article about the possibility of adding varsity wrestling at Andover High School. According to the article there is a very strong club program at both the middle and high school; and the Merrimack Valley Conference, of which Andover is a member, is a known wrestling powerhouse.
A few things need to be worked out. First, the costs. There seems to already be a strong parent booster association in place but the school would still likely have to cover some of the costs of adding the program.
And then there is Title IX.
The Andover principal said a girls' sport would have to be added if wrestling went to varsity status.
Dyer, though, has his doubts about this claim:
...and Title IX is more a guideline at the high school level rather than the strict mandate it is for colleges. There are plenty of schools in the region that have at least one or two more boys sports than girls sports.
A guideline? No, actually it's a federal statute that mandates equity in athletics in educational institutions receiving federal monies. Now I know Andover is a pretty wealthy community, but I am pretty sure they receive federal dollars.
Issues regarding access to sport opportunities have certainly been focused on colleges and universities but that does not mean high schools can take or leave Title IX. There is no national governing body like the NCAA in high school sports. And as problematic as the NCAA has been, it does require institutions to report on issues of gender equity. To date most investigations of Title IX violations at high schools are instigated by concerned parents and community members who believe something is amiss and file a complaint with OCR.
More attention is being paid to high school athletic departments, though, and if Senator Snowe's proposal to make high school athletic departments report their distribution of opportunities and monies similar to the way universities must, more attention is forthcoming.
Clearly there is a need for more attention because although Dyer's assertion that there are more boys' teams than girls' teams at many high schools (as a way to justify adding wrestling without adding a girls' sport) reveals that he misunderstands that equity is not based on number of teams but number of spots/opportunities, his observation probably means that high school girls in Massachusetts are being denied equitable opportunities.
Dyer also notes that girls can become members of the wrestling team as they have at other area schools. This could indeed happen (though Title IX would not mandate access to wrestling because it is a contact sport) and is certainly welcome from my point of view, but unless there are equal numbers of girls and boys then distribution of opportunities is still an issue. [This is all assuming that Andover is already in compliance with Title IX.]
We shall have to wait and see what transpires.

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