Monday, September 30, 2013

Agreements reached... Portland, Maine where an investigation by OCR found that girls received fewer opportunities for participation in interscholastic sports than their male peers. The investigation also revealed some disparities in facilities. Under the agreement, the district will add girls' volleyball for the 2014-15 season and ensure equitable locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities. Administrators will also begin a process of assessing whether the district meets either prong one (proportionality) or prong three (interest) in determining the sport opportunities girls in Portland's schools receive. the Union County (South Carolina) School District. Interestingly chairperson of the school board BJ McMorris announced at a meeting last week that OCR found no merit to a complaint filed in December 2012. Curious announcement given that a voluntary resolution agreement would not seem necessary for a complaint with no merit. Sure, some things will be improved, the public was told at last week's meeting, but nothing was ever really wrong was the message (along with a little passing of the buck--see below).
One of the issues with the resolution agreement process is the "no fault" aspect. Whatever semantic dance administrators--at all levels--are doing, an agreement means something was wrong that needs to be fixed.
What happened in South Carolina was that one part of the complaint in which the complainant argued that there were gender-based differences in punishments meted out to student-athletes was found to have no merit. Other aspects of the complaint and the OCR investigation did not, however, find Union County to be in tip-top Title IX shape.
Superintendent Kristi Woodall said she felt bad for the taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the work the district had to do compiling documents and otherwise accomodating OCR during the investigation. It was a throw-OCR-under-the-bus move. There have been plenty of times that OCR does not invesitgate a complaint because it does not seem to have merit.
Woodall is blaming OCR for doing its job and not taking any responsibility for its own non-compliance.
But OCR fired back seemingly immediately after the above-linked article was published in the local newspaper. A letter to the paper (which also bears some responsibility for not questioning a resolution to an proclaimed non-situation) included this statement:
“...OCR’s investigation determined that the district failed to provide female athletes equal opportunities with respect to: equitable facilities, including practice and competitive softball fields; strength training facilities and locker rooms; laundering of uniforms; pregame meals; scheduling and number of games; and maintenance of uniforms.
On Sept. 24, 2013, the district signed a Resolution Agreement to address these Title IX compliance concerns. OCR expects to issue a letter of findings, with accompanying Resolution Agreement, by the end of this week.” Gloversville, New York after a January 2011 complaint triggered an OCR investigation. This is another case of spinning the situation with the superintendent of the Gloversville Enlarged School District saying that OCR found nothing wrong but that the district would be making some improvements. A project in which many of the district's fields and facilities were renovated dealt with some of the issues raised in the complaint, but the district will still be required to: schedule some girls' softball games on the lighted fields, fix the drainage on the softball fields, and make sure that a shared field is properly prepared for each respective sport that uses it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Straight Talk from Rutgers AD on NCAA Stipend Proposal

Rutgers University Athletic Director Julie Hermann was interviewed in the local press about the challenges of helping college athletes cover the true cost of education.  Last year, the NCAA voted to allow Division I institutions to award $2000 cost-of-living stipends to those athletes already receiving a full scholarship, to cover the kind of incidentals outside of tuition, room and board.  The plan was later rescinded but the concept is still under consideration.  

As Hermann notes, the original stipend plan was inequitable from the start in terms of gender, given that far more male athletes (those in so-called "headcount sports") than female receive full scholarships and would be eligible for the stipend.  Counting the scholarships awarded in the headcount sports of men's football and basketball, Hermann notes, " you have $200,000 you can now award to your men, which is great. But that only gives you $60,000 that you can award on the women’s side [in volleyball and basketball]. You’re automatically $140,000 off.”

There's not an obvious fix, it seems.  Simply expanding eligibility to include equivalency sports, Hermann explains, would tremendously increase the total cost to institutions of funding the stipend.  People view the stipends as a way to share the profits with the athletes whose efforts generate those funds.  But most university athletic departments, even those with football programs, are not profiting on athletics.  Hermann notes that many football programs don't even turn a profit.  So the money for the stipends is coming from the university (tuition) or elsewhere in the athletics budget. So the possible consequence is that universities will cut equivalency sports in order to be able to pay out stipends to everyone else -- something Hermann doesn't want to see. 

Another challenge with the stipends, it appears, is that there's some evidence suggesting the students who received them didn't spend them as intended: "They’re buying a $500 pair of jeans that you and I don’t spend money on. So yes we could make them a card, but you have to teach them financial management. We’re trying to feed and clothe you, give you everything you need (via the stipend), but we’re not trying to make you into fashionistas."

Hermann's right that there's no easy answer to the fundamental questions of fairness that underlie this issue.  It's good to know that athletic directors like Hermann are cognizant of the gender equity implications as well as the potential implications for equivalency sports. Her remarks suggest that for most schools, stipends are not the answer, and will only drive an additional wedge between athletes in some sports that happen to be  popular with the public and others that are not.  It's becoming increasingly difficult to imagine an NCAA that governs the handful of profit-earning institutions along with everybody else.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Occidental College Settles With Sexual Assault Complainants

Occidental College will reportedly pay an undisclosed sum to settle with students and faculty who have complained to the Department of Education that the College failed to properly handle their complaints of sexual assault.  The complaint against Occidental was one of several filed last spring as part of a coordinated student campaign to promote enforcement of Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. 

The settlement is confidential, so not much is known about its terms, other than that those bound by the settlement have agreed to not speak publicly about it.  I suspect that what the College has really paid for is the promise by the parties not to file a lawsuit for damages against the school. Public enforcement unaffected by a settlement between parties, so it was unsurprising to read that the Department of Education's investigation remains ongoing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ACLU Files Complaint in Bathroom Bias Case

Here is an update on the transgender bathroom case in Florida that we blogged about last month.   The ACLU has recently filed a complaint with the Department of Education challenging the Pinellas Tehnical Education Center's decision to exclude a transgender woman student from the women's bathroom.  This complaint came on the heels of a demand letter sent to the Center, which the Center has apparently ignored.  The complaint succintly summarizes why the discrimination against their client constitutes sex discrimination under Title IX:
Requiring Alex to use separate restrooms than those used by other students constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. First, it is per se sex discrimination because the differential treatment is based on her gender identity. Macy v. Holder, 2012 WL 1435995, at *6 (E.E.O.C. Apr. 20, 2012) (“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination proscribes gender discrimination, and not just discrimination on the basis of biological sex . . . .”). It is further per se sex discrimination because the treatment is based on her gender transition. See Schroer v. Billington, 577 F. Supp. 2d 293, 308 (D.D.C..2008) (discrimination based on plaintiff’s plan to undergo transition “was literally discrimination ‘because of . . . sex’” under Title VII) (alterations in original). Finally, this treatment is unlawful sex stereotyping because Alex is being treated differently based on her failure to conform to gender stereotypes—PTEC does not consider her sufficiently feminine to use the women’s restrooms. See Glenn v. Brumby, 663 F.3d 1312, 1317 (11th Cir. 2011) (“[D]iscrimination against a transgender individual because of her gender-nonconformity is sex discrimination.”).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

District of Columbia considering mandatory reporting

Research has shown that girls in urban communities have far fewer athletic opportunities that their suburban counterparts as well as their male peers. The Women's Sports Foundation has focused some of its programs on this issue in an attempt to close the gap. These programs are aimed largely at organizations and activities outside of the schools (after school programs, recreational sports). But now, recognizing the Title IX implications (the two complaints--one from the National Women's Law Center--might have helped raise some awareness!) of the disparity as they manifest in the schools, the DC Council is proposing a bill that would require the reporting of equity data by all elementary, charter, middle and high schools in the district. And it does not just call for reporting participation numbers. Schools would also have to report how much they spend on sports, the quality of equipment, and availability of facilities for boys' and girls' sports respectively.
A similar piece of legislation was proposed several years ago (prior to the two complaints), but did not pass. Currently, 5 out of the 13 council members are supporting the bill.