Monday, November 19, 2007

OCR, Title IX, and High School Athletics

Title IX's most well-known application -- to college and university athletics -- sometimes overshadows the fact that it applies to high schools schools and secondary schools as well. In this light, I thought it was worth noting three separate, recent examples of Title IX enforcement taking place at the high school level.

First, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights recently paid a visit to the public high schools in Springfield, Missouri to follow up on a Title IX complaint alleging discrimination between the conditions of softball and baseball. The high schools have baseball facilities on campus but girls play at city-owned parks off site. This is not per se inequitable, but in context it may be -- schools do not transport the softball players to their home fields for games or practice, and the city fields lack amenities like locker rooms that are available to athletes who play at the school.

On a similar topic, OCR recently informed the Pitt County (North Carolina) Board of Education that it was out of compliance with respect to its softball facilities, which unlike the boys' baseball fields, did not have lights for night play. The board meets tonight to review OCR's report and make plans to address the issue, which had been under investigation since a complaint filed with OCR in 2005.

Meanwhile, in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, school district officials are working to set up a meeting the OCR to go over the independent gender equity audit the district commissioned after it was named in a Title IX complaint last year. (Prior posts about this case are here and here.) The district seems reluctant to address all of the inequities the auditor found -- most of which relate to booster-club-funded perks -- without first checking with OCR to make sure remediation is necessary. However, since the complaint, the district has eliminated some preferential treatment for football players (no more free breakfasts on game day) and added new coaching positions for middle school field hockey and a varsity girls track coach. It has also equalized salaries for the coaches of boys and girls teams, which officials say was the district's own initiative, not in response to the auditor's investigation.

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