Friday, October 24, 2008

Teacher's Complaint Prompts Title IX Investigation, Changes to Facilities

The New Hanover (N.C.) County Schools, which had been under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights, recently agreed to upgrade athletic facilities and locker room for female athletes, who had been receiving inferior access in violation of Title IX. A teacher and coach named Alan Sewell triggered the investigation when he filed a complaint with OCR. After reading an article about Title IX in the local newspaper, he said, he realized that something should be done to remedy the inequities he'd witnessed over the years. Particularly, Sewell was concerned about the girls' basketball team's access to locker rooms at Laney, one of the district high schools. The team had to yield the locker room to visiting boys' teams, which often resulted in the girls having to change in the lobby restroom or the weight room. The team's booster club lobbied the district unsuccessfully to remedy the situation.

OCR's investigation also revealed gender disparities in athletic facilities at both New Hanover high schools, particularly, the inferior quality of the girls' softball fields relative to the boys' baseball fields. According to OCR's report, the boys' facility "look[ed] closer to a major league baseball park and the softball field look[ed] closer to an abandoned sandlot field."

According to the resolution agreement, New Hanover has two years to upgrade the girls' facilities at its high schools.