Friday, February 23, 2018

In Oregon School District, Girls Must Pay More to Play

Here's an interesting article that Oregon Public Broadcasting ran this week about the Beaverton school district charging girls more than boys for opportunities to participate in sports and other activities. A local woman first noticed gender disparities in utility charges, of all things, after she inquired about the school district's practice of billing her nonprofit, which runs after school programs on school grounds, for water and electricity. When she started looking into what other organizations the school district charges, she noticed a gender pattern: activities like cheer and dance, which primarily attract girls, were also being billed.

The utilities issue prompted her and other parents to ask questions about sports as well.  The school district charges athletes $225 to participate on a high school team, but the parents discovered that this fee is waived more often for boys than for girls. The parents also started looking into supplemental athletic activities like off-season camps, that are not part of the school's program but are offered by separate business run by the coaches.  These also charge for participation.  When the cost of these optional-but-not-really-if-you-want-to-make-the-team programs are added in, another disparity appears: Girls playing soccer at one of the district high schools were charged $450 total; boys paid $265, and an even greater difference exists between boys and girls playing basketball at the other high school.

The parents' advocacy has prompted the school district to pay closer attention to how coaches are running private, off-season camps. But the article did not indicate that school district officials were planning to regulate what coaches could charge in order to ensure equity between boys and girls participation costs or if they would offset the higher cost to girls in some other way. The parents advocating for equality liken the role of coach-run businesses to other third parties, like booster clubs, which Title IX does not recognize as an excuse for more favorable treatment granted to boys' teams. The article notes that this position is unpopular with parents in boys-team booster clubs, but it at least quotes a school district official acknowledging this is how Title IX works. OPB  has promised more reporting on this issue, so we will see what changes it leads to.  The parents seem dogged and resourceful and unlikely to give up. It also helps that the law is on their side.