Monday, November 14, 2011

Remaining Idaho Complaint Closed with Voluntary Resolution Agreement

I just received a copy of a Voluntary Resolution Agreement between OCR and the Meridian Joint School District in Idaho, which closes OCR's investigation into complaint against Meridian alleging Title IX violations in the distribution of athletic opportunities between girls and boys.

Last week, we posted that the complaint against Meridian was the last one standing ofter OCR closed 77 out of 78 complaints that had been simultaneously filed against school district across the state of Idaho. We wondered whether, lacking the resources to conduct 78 investigations, OCR was at least trying to make an example out of one school district for the other districts to follow. But by closing that complaint with a friendly agreement, rather than conduct an investigation, OCR signals that making an example out of Meridian was never its intent.

Under the terms of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement, Meridian must assess its compliance with prong one by gathering and submit to OCR documentation of its enrollment and participation rates. Recalling that the complaint had alleged that Meridian was over-counting athletic opportunities by including cheerleading and dance activities that do not have a varsity-like competitive schedule, I note that the VRA instructs Meridian to "not include participants in intramural, club, nor non-competitive athletic activities."

If Meridian's athletic opportunities are not proportionate to enrollment, as required by prong one, Meridian (which is not disputing that it does not comply with prong two's requirement of a "history and continuing practice" of expanding opportunities for girls) is supposed to assess whether it complies instead with the third prong, and can show that there is no unmet interest among girls, the underrepresented sex. The district must use a combination of participation rates in club and intramural sports as well as P.E. class, interest surveys, and an assessment of what sports are popular in the district's competitive region to determine if there are sports that girls would be interested to participate in if offered. If this analysis reveals unmet interest in sufficient numbers, the district must add those opportunities.

So, Meridian is supposed to figure out if it is in compliance with Title IX, and if not, to comply with Title IX. In other words, except for having a couple of deadlines by which to submit documentation to OCR, the district's legal obligations are really no different under the VRA than they were before. OCR has responded to the mass complaints in Idaho in the weakest way possible.