Thursday, April 21, 2011

Washington School District Enters Voluntary Agreement to Comply with Title IX

The Office for Civil Rights accepted a voluntary agreement from Federal Way School District, one of the 26 school districts in Washington State named in Title IX complaint recently accepted by the agency. The complaint alleged that a participation gap of -12.1 percentage points exists between the percent of Federal Way high school students who are female and the percent of athletic opportunities they receive -- the equivalent of 76 actual opportunities -- and that this disparity has been widening, not shrinking, in recent years. A somewhat smaller 8 percentage point gap is reported in the press.

Federal Way has agreed to conduct immediately a detailed analysis of its compliance with the athletics' regulation under each of its three prongs. It also agreed to add new athletic opportunities for girls in the coming year, if the results of its analysis reveal compliance with neither.

On the one hand, it is frustrating to see a school district enter into a formal agreement to do exactly what the law already requires it to do, comply with Title IX under one of the three prongs. But on the other hand, the complaint process has effectively put Federal Way's feet to the fire (along with a couple dozen other districts in the state) to come into compliance in the coming year and under the monitoring of OCR, which will review the districts' analysis and decisionmaking at multiple steps in the process. While the voluntary agreement does not produce a finding of noncompliance or related penalties, it is the mechanism that will most swiftly and fully end the disparity in opportunities that exists for girls in Washington state.