Friday, November 12, 2010

Title IX Violations to be Remedied in Arrowhead, Wisconsin

A recent investigation into Title IX violations at Arrowhead High School in Wisconsin lead OCR to conclude, for the second time in recent years, that the school was not providing equal opportunity to female athletes. The school has agreed to fund alpine skiing and lacrosse, though the superintendent characterizes this a a voluntary, proactive decision and is seeking to challenge OCR's determination that the high school is in violation of Title IX.

In 2008, Arrowhead settled a complaint about unequal treatment by agreeing to make improvements to softball and field hockey facilities.

UPDATE: a reader kindly emailed me a copy of OCR's letter of findings, so I am able to add some additional details to the press account I summarized this morning.

  • Arrowhead High School had a four-percentage-point disparity between the percent of athletic opportunities for girls (43%) and the percent of girls in the student body (47%). OCR characterized this as a substantial disparity not in compliance with prong one's substantial proportionality test because it amounted to 124 participation opportunities, well over the amount necessary to field a team in one or several sports.
  • Next, OCR found that though the disparity had decreased since 2006 (it was as high as 5.3%) this does not satisfy prong two's requirement for continuous expansion of opportunities for the underrepresented sex because it was due to a decrease in the percentage of female students rather than the addition of new athletic opportunities. Moreover, prong two compliance was foreclosed by the fact that Arrowhead has only added one new sport for girls in the last 20 years, and had turned down a request to fund the existing self-funded lacrosse team.
  • OCR also found that the existence of two, self-funded club teams demonstrates unmet interest and ability in additional varsity sports for girls, thus precluding Arrowhead from prong three compliance. The girls' Alpine ski team has existed since 2006 and has grown from 10 girls to as many as 21. Last year, the skiers competed successfully against fifteen other teams in five invitational meets. A girls' lacrosse team also provides opportunities for as many as 69 girls divided onto four squads. Though lacrosse is not sanctioned by the WIAA (neither is alpine skiing), the lacrosse team is a member of the Milwaukee Area Youth Lacrosse Association and competes against the other 6 other girls' lacrosse teams in that league, as well as other schools in the Madison area and from Illinois -- all within 70 miles of the school. Therefore, there is unmet interest and ability in sports for which there is sufficient competition in the school's normal geographic region of competition.
  • The school district had informed OCR through correspondence spanning the last several months that it would fully fund lacrosse this school year, that it would partially fund (50%) the alpine ski team next school year, and fully fund the ski team in the following (2012-13) school year. OCR has closed the complaint "based upon these commitments," but has required the district to verify its compliance with those commitments going forward, and to that end imposed several reporting requirements spanning the next several years.