Monday, March 31, 2008

More Coverage of Sexual Harassment in College Sports

Athletic Business, a trade journal for the sports and recreation industry, examines sexual harassment in college sports in this month's issue. The article suggests that Title IX is increasingly becoming the vehicle not only for equal opportunity claims, but sexual harassment claims as well. It mentions as examples a number of cases we follow on the blog -- including the recently-settled lawsuit involving harassment by UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance, the charges against FGCU volleyball coach Jaye Flood, and all of the Fresno State cases -- as well as one case we didn't know about -- a lawsuit against Hofstra in which a female student manager for the football team alleges that she was harassed by the players and fired when she complained (for more on that case, see this archived coverage by the local TV news).

The article includes quotes from Title IX expert Professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar and attorney Robert Clayton of Littler Mendelson (FGCU's counsel). Both point out that its easier in the context of athletics for comments that are normal and appropriate ("you really look like you're developing those leg muscles") to devolve into comments that contribute to a hostile environment ("you have great legs"). They advise athletic departments to avoid legal trouble by developing, implementing, and enforcing policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment from occurring and responding effectively and efficiently when harassment occurs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

ESPN2 Airs Title IX Special This Weekend

"License to Thrive: Title IX at 35" is an independently-produced, one-hour special that "examines the unique history and impact of the Title IX legislation and celebrates the achievements, in numerous areas, of women and girls over the past 35 years. "

This Sunday, March 30, it will air on ESPN2 at 1PM EST.

Georgia County Backs Off Single-Sex Education Plan, For Now

Last month we posted about Greene County, Georgia, and its plans to convert all of its public schools to a single-sex model.

Recently, however, the County changed its mind, and will formally withdraw those plans at an upcoming meeting. According to the AP, the County faced "a groundswell of opposition from parents who were outraged that they weren't consulted ahead of time." This leaves open the possibility that the County might reinstate its plan, or some other version of the plan, after it receives input from parents and teachers.

Of course, the parents might really be outraged, not that they weren't consulted, but that the County is trying to pigeonhole their sons' and daughters' attitudes and behaviors based on gender stereotypes. In that case, their buy-in might be hard to come by.

UPDATE 4/1: The link to the AP story above is no longer working, but other news outlets reported on Greene County's change of heart, see here and here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

NY Times Profiles School Bullies' Victim

In Monday's New York Times, columnist Dan Barry published this profile of Billy Wolfe, an Arkansas tenth-grader who is constantly bullied by his classmates. He's been knocked out in shop class, decked in Spanish class, prank-called, presented with a list of 20 potential assailants, encountered anti-Billy graffiti scrawled in his textbooks, and was once the subject of a Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.”
It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”
We've noted in the past that Title IX is often limited in its capacity to address peer-on-peer violence, both because it is difficult to establish a school's deliberate indifference to ongoing bullying and because some courts don't construe sex discrimination statutes like Title IX to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Judging by the description of the anti-Billy Facebook page, Billy may be a target because his peers perceive him as gay or otherwise not masculine.

The article notes that Billy's parents have sued the bullies themselves, though that's not a likely to be a lucrative suit. They may also sue the school district, which would give a court the opportunity to construe the applicability of Title IX to this case. Meanwhile, however, stories like this one underscore the need for strengthening anti-bully legislation at the federal and state level.

New book on women and science

Published at the end of last year, Who's Afraid of Marie Curie?: The Challenges Facing Women in Science and Technology, written by science writer Linley Erin Hall, addresses the many challenges women face in the field. Hall's book is aimed at a general audience and includes interviews with nearly 100 women who do or have worked in science, mathematics, technology, engineering, and medicine; studies about the "differences" in men's and women's abilities in the field, and, of course, the sociocultural pressures and barriers unique to women.
I haven't read the book yet myself but the review in the current edition of Bitch (the link is to the magazine's website but the review is not available there) is quite favorable--and it references Title IX, though it's not clear that the book itself invokes the statute.
Feminist Review also has a brief but positive review.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More on New Cheerleading Book

Following up on our post last week on the new book, "Cheer!" that follows three college teams vying for cheerleading's national championship, here's an interview by with author Kate Torgovnick, where she discusses her views on cheerleading as a competitive sport and the gender stereotypes that are often attached to male and female cheerleaders. The bottom line: Torgovnick sees competitive cheerleading (as distinguished from sideline cheerleading) as akin to any other college sport, and supports its growing legitimacy in athletic circles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Outside the Lines on Negative Recruiting

This week's episode of ESPN's Outside the Lines addresses negative recruiting in women's sports. In particular, the show covered how coaches exploit parents' homophobia to lure recruits away from teams coached by women who, especially when single, are vulnerable to the lesbian "stigma."

Pat Griffin wrote about the episode on her blog about LGBT Sport. She praised ESPN's efforts to bring attention to this subtle form of discrimination in women's sport that marginalized gay athletes and contributes to the underrepresentation of women among head coaches. But she also criticized the segment for "miss[ing] an important opportunity to make the point that initiatives against negative recruiting are gaining some ground." She notes that the NCAA has shown interest in taking on this issue, teaming up with NCLR to provide resources and encouragement to member institutions to adopt policies and practices that reduce instances of negative recruiting.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Movie Review: Kick Like a Girl

We received our copy of the new documentary, Kick Like a Girl, last week and popped in the DVD player right away. It was quite good. The star was definitely the daughter of filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie. She was quite precocious and very informed about issues of gender, as were many of the other girls on the team. Though she did admit she had to be convinced that her team, the Mighty Cheetahs, joining the boys' soccer league in Salt Lake City was actually a good idea.
The 24-minute film contains many interviews with members of the Cheetahs, their parents, boys they played against, and I believe one mother of a boy who lost to the Cheetahs. Many of the interviewees recounted stories of parents yelling at their sons "You're losing to girls!"but none of those parents seemed to want to be interviewed.
It was a very positive film. The girls knew exactly what was going on regarding the gender stereotypes they were breaking and most of the boys in the film got it too. There was no explicit message which actually became part of the problem I had with the film.
It did not seem to want to say outright that mixed gender competition is the direction we should be headed in. But by not making some statement about either (or both) the positives and negatives of mixed gender competition the message left open for viewers to take was that these girls are unique. That most girls do not desire the level of competition these girls sought and that most girls are not competitive and not as skilled. Though the movie did a good job debunking the stereotypes that have been placed on these girls--that they can't kick, for example--it fails to address how desire for competition and level of aggression or even the desire to play a sport like soccer are all affected by social norms placed on both girls and boys.
In the end it's a great story about a soccer team that changed some minds about the abilities of (some) girls. It's perfect for showing in classes because it's short, compelling and can inspire some good discussions about youth sports, mixed gender competition, and the ability of sport to alter gender stereotypes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Softball field facelifts in Maryland

Though things may not be moving much on the softball fields in Charleston, farther north in Prince George's County, Maryland 17 of the county's 22 softball fields have undergone improvements in the past couple of years. The over $1 million spent on the fields is the result of the scrutiny the county received in 2006 over Title IX compliance related to facilities. Officials are also working on increasing the overall participation of girls and, according to the article "will promote girls sports through 2008."

One would hope this is a mistake in reporting and that the plan is to promote girls' sports well beyond this year.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For my future source collection

Someday I'm going to write an article about competitive cheer. Meanwhile, I'll add this book to my future source collection:

"College cheerleaders are extreme athletes who fly thirty feet in the air, build pyramids in which a single slip can send ten people crashing to the ground, and compete in National Championships that are won by hundredths of a point. Cheer! is a year-long odyssey into their universe, following three squads from tryouts to Nationals."
(via Feministing)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Increasingly, College Housing Offers Gender Neutral Option

The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday on the increasing number of gender-neutral housing options being offered by colleges and universities. The article focuses on pilot programs underway and in the works at Goucher College, UMBC, and University of Maryland College Park, while noting that around 25 colleges (UConn among them, we've previously noted) offer students a coed living experience.

Proponents of such programs explain that some students are as comfortable, if not more so, living with members of the opposite sex, so making them choose same-sex apartment-mates seems like an "artificial barrier." Coed housing options also makes good business sense for colleges that compete with an off-campus housing market, where coed living among students is common. Last, the coed alternative is a compassionate accommodation for transgendered students, for whom living in a dorm or apartment designated for one sex or the other could be an uncomfortable (or controversial) experience.

Yet while many colleges and universities prohibit coed living, some actually require it -- for married students, that is. Last week a gay couple sued the University of Hawaii after their application to live in married student housing was denied. It's clear that many universities still order their students living arrangements around the outmoded assumptions that men and women living separately before marriage and in opposite-sex couples after marriage. The coed housing movement is helping to change this rigid, heteronormative paradigm.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Elsewhere in the blogosphere

David Cohen posts at Feminist Law Profs about Cal Poly's efforts to evade Title IX by sponsoring men-only engineering classes in Saudi Arabia.


At, Neena Chaudhry of the National Women's Law Coalition reflects on the three-year anniversary of the Department of Education's 2005 Clarification, which allows schools with grossly inequitable particpation opportunities to satisfy Title IX using the results of a web-based survey of female students' interests and abilities.

Retention still a problem at FGCU

There has not been any news out of Florida about the pending lawsuits against Florida Gulf Coast University by former female coaches. We suspect news is forthcoming, however.
There was an interesting development a few weeks ago, though, regarding the brand new golf coach. FGCU hired former LPGA pro Terry-Jo Myers to head both the women's and men's golf teams. Less than two weeks after she accepted the position which was to begin July 1, she opted to resign saying that "demands of the position" would not allow her to keep her other commitments.
It's somewhat curious and we wonder if Myers was informed or became aware of some of the issues about the environment at the school and especially in the athletic department between the time of her hiring and her resignation.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

University of Charleston Softball Field Draws Complaint

An alumna and former softball player at the University of Charleston (West Virginia) has complained to OCR about the University's lack of progress toward improved playing conditions for the softball team.

In 2002, the University converted its softball field into a football field and moved softball to a city-owned park. In 2006, a player named Stephanie Kuhn filed a complaint with OCR, which resulted in the school's October 2006 agreement to fund upgrades to the park. Kuhn says the field was supposed to be ready for spring of 2008, and when she saw that no construction had begun, she filed another complaint.

University officials say the delay is being caused by unforeseen engineering problems, the difficulty of doing construction on land one doesn't own, and seasonal concern for mud.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wrestling at Washington community college saved--for now

Last month the board of trustees at Yakima Valley Community College delayed a vote on the potential elimination of the school's wrestling team. At that time, wrestling coach Mike Schmitt asked the board to consider adding a women's wrestling team to help move the college toward proportionality (currently the athletic opportunities for female student-athletes do not come near their 64% representation in the undergraduate population and YVCC apparently has a history with compliance that they are still trying to resolve). The former wrestling coach has agreed to donate $5,000 to start a women's club team with the hope that it will get elevated to varsity status.

Unfortunately none of the issues were addresses at the meeting yesterday because a motion to eliminate the wrestling team was never seconded leaving the whole affair unresolved.

Some are concerned about the costs of adding another team and of course the current lack of resolution of previous Title IX complaints is also weighing heavy on the school.

But there was a very curious statement made by someone at the school regarding the role of OCR in adding sports. College president Linda Kaminsky said that OCR decides what sports to add; that her talks with OCR lawyers has lead her to belief that YVCC cannot just add any sport it wants to; i.e. they might not be able to add women's wrestling even if they wanted to. She said that when the school added women's soccer in 2006 it was OCR's idea not the school's. I have never ever heard of OCR going into a school and dictating which sports a school should add. OCR has always been very hands off in such decisions. They go in and tell a school what is wrong but it is always the school's responsibility to find a solution. Either Kaminsky is confused or she is trying to deflect blame off herself and other administrators for the forthcoming (maybe?? no word on when this issue is going to be taken up next) decisions.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New documentary on mixed gender competition

A Utah woman who began coaching her daughter's soccer team several year ago has made a movie about her experiences. Kick Like a Girl was done by Jenny Mackenzie who, when her young daughter's team went unbeaten in her first season as coach, sought out teams that would provide a greater challenge: boys' teams. The 24-minute movie highlights the reaction of the girls on the Mighty Cheetahs as well as the boys they played against when the team joined the boys' league. Parents also weighed in on the girls playing boys issue--mixed reactions as you might expect.

You can find out more about the movie, where it is playing (it has been at film festivals across the country), and watch a trailer at this website.

You can also buy your own copy of the DVD for just $19.99 which includes S&H. Once we get our copy we'll do a little review.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some Thoughts on Competitive Cheer

As we have written about in the past, the sport of competitive cheerleading exists at both the college and high school level. To be clear, "competitive cheer" is not the same as sideline cheer, which is, for Title IX purposes, a form of publicity and promotion. But when a cheerleading squad exists for the sole purpose of training and competing against other squads throughout a regular season, it is considered by many -- including OCR, under the right circumstances -- to be a sport, entitled to all of the benefits that other sports receive. This development is controversial, however. Many have a hard time taking competitive cheer seriously -- both because it's a sport where the winner is not determined by a scoreboard or a time clock (though it's certainly not the first sport to rely on subjective scoring system), and because it invokes by association the gender stereotypes perpetuated by traditional sideline cheerleading.

Both high school and college cheer were in the news this week, inspiring me to offer some reflections on this new sport. First, there was this article in the Baltimore Sun, which profiled the competitive cheer squad at the University of Maryland. Maryland is the first, and currently only, college to offer competitive cheer as a sport. Oregon will be joining them next year. However, the article points to some evidence that this isn't necessarily the beginning of a trend. OCR ensures that schools aren't passing off their existing sideline cheerleaders as athletes under Title IX, which means schools actually have to spend money on competitive cheer, like any other sport -- a big deterrent. Additionally, one source suggested that while cheerleading squads might enjoy the occasional competition, they are reluctant to give up their sideline role, as going competitive would require.

I got a difference sense on the viability of competitive cheer by reading this column in the St. Petersburg Times. Author John Cotey reported on the inaugural Florida state championship in competitive cheer, which involved 175 schools and nearly 4,000 (all female) athletes. He made it clear while he personally doesn't fully embrace the sport -- pointing out that "bright red lipstick was apparently required," that "athletes were in curlers...[and] ribbons were part of the uniform" -- he ultimately comes out in favor competitive cheer, emphasizing that despite the spectacle (DJs, airbrushed souvenir t-shirts, roses and corsages for sale) the competition was serious. His account suggests that high school competitive cheer is, at least in Florida, a viable, sport that is catching on, and producing potential future college participants.

If competitive cheer is really catching on, the question women's sports proponents will have to ask is whether a sport that incorporates "lipstick, ribbons, and curlers" can coexist with those women's sports that challenge gender stereotypes and broaden the scope of what society considers appropriately feminine appearance, behavior, and activity. Some might say there is already pressure on female athletes to emphasize traditionally feminine appearance without embracing a sport that seems to require it. At the same time, those of us who are questioning the validity of competitive cheer should be careful not to let our paradigm of sport be limited by its traditional definitions, which were, historically speaking, created by men. Competitive cheer might represent an opportunity to expand the definition of sport, however slightly, from its patriarchal origins. I don't have a final answer, but I'm open to the possibility of competitive cheer as a feminist project.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hogshead-Makar to help CU

As part of its multimillion dollar sexual harassment settlement last fall the University of Colorado agreed to hire a Title IX adviser and they filled that position recently with Title IX expert, author, law professor, and Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar. Hogshead-Makar is keeping busy these days. She has been involved in former FGCU volleyball coach Jaye Flood's lawsuit. She also just co-edited a book with Andrew Zimbalist, Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change.
I don't suspect that she will give up her Florida commitments--like her position at Florida Coastal School of Law though the news brief was not very clear about the nature or duration of the position. Regardless, it seems she will be making some visits to Colorado as she embarks on this new job.

We here at the Title IX Blog send her many congratulations, best wishes (and maybe a pair of mittens)!

UPDATE: According to the Denver Post, Hogshead-Makar will continue to live in Florida but travel to CU to do her evaluation (which is only focused on sexual harassment; it is not a comprehensive Title IX review). Also, I should have added to her current list of projects the similar work she is doing at University of North Carolina.
The Daily Camera, CU's student newspaper, reports that it is a five-year position and that she will be taking a sabbatical next year.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Milutinovich is Woman of the Year

Former Fresno State associate athletic director Diane Milutinovich will be honored today by the California State Senate as Woman of the Year for the 16th district, the Fresno Bee reported. State Senator Dean Florez nominated Milutinovich for "her many contributions to women's athletics and her unwavering fight for gender equity in higher education."

Last October, Milutinovich settled her gender discrimination lawsuit against Fresno State for $3.5 million. She retired from Fresno State after 27 year of service as a coach and administrator, but continues her advocacy for Title IX, attending all of the hearings for Senator Florez's Select Committee on Gender Discrimination.

Congrats Diane! Your honor is well-deserved.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Professor Brake on Title IX as "Pragmatic Feminism"

When not starring in award-winning ESPN reports, Professor Deborah Brake from Pitt writes law review articles about Title IX. Her most recent is called Title IX: A Pragmatic Feminism. It is available on SSRN. I'll let the abstract speak for itself:
This paper uses Title IX as a vehicle for exploring the potential benefits of pragmatism for feminist legal theory. Title IX is unusual in antidiscrimination law for its eclectic approach to theory, drawing from liberal feminism, substantive equality, antisubordination and different voice models of equality at various points in the law's approach to gender equality in sports. This paper argues that Title IX, as a pragmatic approach to theory, provides a promising example of how feminist legal theory can draw from pragmatism to navigate the double-bind and the backlash.

Following an introduction in Part I, Part II of this Article examines legal pragmatism and its relationship to feminist legal theory, arguing that both schools of thought have the potential to enrich one another. Part III provides an account of the multiple forms of gender oppression in sports, following pragmatism's insight that any sound theoretical approach to a problem must be grounded in the particularities of the context surrounding that problem.

Part III argues that given the slipperiness of subordination and its shifting practices and ideologies, we should not expect a unitary, consistent theory of discrimination to address it. Finally, Part IV examines the plural approach to theory reflected in Title IX, arguing that Title IX's eclectic approach to theory explains why this law has been unusually successful in navigating the double-bind and shaping cultural norms to fend off a backlash. The Article concludes that, though far from perfect, Title IX provides a promising example of how pragmatic approaches can shape successful feminist legal strategies.
Citation: Deborah Brake, Title IX: A Pragmatic Feminism, 55 Cleveland State Law Review 513 (2008).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend?

Last week we posted about a female baseball player in Indiana winning the right to try out for baseball even though her high school has a softball team. Now, via the awesome Women's Sports Blog, we learn of a similar development in Nebraska, where the interscholastic athletic association recently voted to change its past practice of treating baseball and softball as equivalent sports. By recognizing baseball and softball as separate and distinct sports, a girl now has the opportunity to try out for baseball even if a softball team is offered at her school. Interestingly, since Nebraska high schools play softball in the fall and baseball in the spring, a female athlete may actually try out for both.

Readers may wonder whether Title IX creates an equivalent right for boys to try out for girls' softball now that they are not regarded as equivalent sports. According to the Title IX regulation (34 CFR 106.41(b)) governing cross-over participation, if a school offers only one team in a particular sport, it must let members of the opposite sex try out if athletic opportunities for that athlete's sex have "previously been limited" (and the sport involved is not a contact sport, but this limitation most likely does not include softball). There is some debate over whether this standard requires the cross-over participant to show athletic opportunities overall were previously limited (a standard boys would not be able to meet) or whether they only need to show that previous limitations in opportunities to participate in sport in question (a standard boys might be able to satisfy with respect to high school softball). There is certainly judicial support for the former interpretation, which is presumably the position that the NSAA is taking.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Long Beach gymnasts win back their space

A federal judge has ruled that the folks at Wilson High School who moved the the gymnastics team and their equipment out of a dedicated facility at the high school to make room for aerobics equipment (for PE classes) and weights (to be used primarily by boys' sports teams--though why only boys are using weights is questionable but alas a post for another time) violated Title IX.
This is a preliminary decision. The judge is waiting for more information to issue a final judgment. (My guess is that it will hinge on whether the school has to pay for the damage to the equipment--especially the spring floor--that occurred during the moving process.)
The gymnasts and their parents are happy, of course, and probably pretty glad they did not accept a last-minute pre-trial offer by Wilson High School that would have paid for the use of a private off-campus facility and transportation to and from that gym. This part of the story has been somewhat buried but it important, I feel, because it shows the parents' and gymnasts' commitment to equity. The off-campus facility is, from the way it has been described, a superior facility with more amenities. But the gymnasts wanted their rightful place on campus. They wanted to remain a visible part of the school's athletic community. And they seemed to be able to see the injustice in having the only dedicated facility for women on campus taken away and given to the boys. The private facility may be bigger and better equipped but they saw beyond the perks to the larger issue of fairness.

Harvard Tests Out Women-Only Gym Hours

In response to a request from several Muslim women students, Harvard is testing out having "women-only" hours at one of its campus gyms, the AP reports. The women making the request, with support from the campus women's center, sought the women-only hours (six hours a week, at the least used gym on campus) due to Islamic dress codes that encourage a level of modesty in dress while around men; the dress code would make it difficult or impossible to exercise at the gym in a co-ed environment.

Apparently the decision has caused some controversy on the Harvard campus, where some students support the effort to accommodate the various religious needs of students, while others say that the campus environment should be about increasing access of space to everyone, not shutting men out of the gym for certain hours in the week. Harvard plans to evaluate its trial policy on gym hours at the end of the semester.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Phys Ed Shown to Improve Academic Success

An article in USA Today reports on a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which shows that an increase in physical education classes in grade school can boost academic success, particularly for girls. This is interesting news given the trend in public schools to cut back on gym class to make the academic curriculum more rigorous for students.

The same boost to academic success was not seen in boys who were part of the study. Susan Carlson, a CDC epidemiologist and the lead author of the study, says that there is no evidence as to why that academic boost affected only girls, but speculated that "a higher level of physical activity might be needed to yield the same result because boys are commonly more active than girls." Except for the last part, which seems to based on Carlson's conjecture more than anything else, this is very interesting news, especially for educators looking for ways to defend gym class in the face of pressure to focus on more "academic" learning.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Student Note Criticizes EADA

In 1994, Congress passed the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which requires colleges and universities subject to Title IX to report information about the number of athletic opportunities it provides to both sexes as well as certain information about athletic department expenditures (and revenues) for men's and women's programs. In a note in the Journal of College and University Law, student Kathryn Keen criticizes the EADA and argues for its repeal.

First, Keen argues that the EADA is failing in its purpose of helping prospective student-athletes decide on a college, since student-athletes are not aware of the information it makes available and don't factor it into their decisionmaking. Personally, I have never heard that helping prospective student-athletes was the purpose of the EADA and the only support for this idea is a buried statement on the Department of Ed's website. The real value of disclosing gender equity data is much broader -- it is to help the public ensure that federal dollars are not funding discrimination. The EADA makes private enforcement of Title IX possible by exposing schools with gender equity problems and by giving individuals with grievances the information they need to decide whether a violation has occurred. When similar reporting requirements don't apply, violations are more easily concealed because compliance information is so difficult to acquire. This is why legislation is pending to expand these reporting requirements to high schools, which are not subject to the EADA.

Keen's more persuasive critique of the EADA is that the data schools submit is inaccurate and/or fails to conform to a uniform standard that allows for meaningful comparison. Because the statute does not require schools to employ standard accounting practices, schools have some flexibility to generate a more favorable fiscal picture. For example, they may distinguish, and thus exclude, capital expenditures, which makes capital-intensive sports (like football) appear more profitable. Even when schools aren't deliberately manipulating financial data, by innocently assigning a particular expenditure to a different budget category than other schools, they make it difficult to make comparisons and spot trends. (Compare, for example, a school that accounts for utilities as a department expense and a school that apportions the bill to its men's and women's athletics programs based on their relative use.) Moreover, there is also no audit process or other mechanism for the Department of Education to catch and correct even obvious, plain errors, such as a $34 million data entry mistake in a report filed by the University of Texas. And, though Keen looked at the reporting of financial information, not the reporting of number athletic opportunities, we've had opportunity to note, there are even reporting discrepancies there as well.

But while I agree with Keen that the EADA is flawed in this regard, I don't agree with her conclusion that the statute should be scrapped. I think that the transparency the statute provides is enormously valuable, not necessarily to prospective students (though this is probably somewhat and increasingly so), but to the public at large. Information is the foundation for private enforcement, which has been demonstrably more effective than agency enforcement at bringing about real improvements in gender equity. To that end, it is crucial for reported data to be accurate and standardized. Rather than calling for its repeal, we could seek to improve the EADA along these lines, by requiring standard accounting practices, imposing an audit system or one of peer review, by clarifying schools' obligations to include and apportion particular expenses. The NCAA, Keen points out, has already implemented a more stringent, meaningful, and accurate reporting obligation for its members (this is not a substitute for the EADA, though, since NCAA does not make its reports public). This could provide a model for the Department of Education to follow -- not to mention a retort to schools who might otherwise object that enhanced reporting requirements increase the the workload of their number-crunchers.

Citation: Kathryn Keen, The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act: Does it Really Improve the Gender Equity Landscape?, 34 J. of College & Univ. L. 227 (2007).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Conference of interest

The Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University will be holding a conference on sport and social justice in June. The Power of Sports Summit is open to scholars, activists, and those working in sport and for social justice (everyone from coaches to program coordinators/administrators) and will be held at NEU June 14 and 15. Topics to be addressed include legal issues and gender segregation but many many more (see the above link for topics and registration information). What is intriguing about this gathering is the format which will breakout groups lead by facilitators from the center. It looks to be very interactive and hopefully will draw people with a range of experiences and knowledge.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Documentary on 6-on-6 b-ball

Attention readers in Iowa: Iowa Public Television is airing what looks to be a very interesting documentary on girls' six-on-six basketball in the state. The first airing of More Than a Game was last night but it will be rebroadcast at 8:15 p.m. March 7 and on March 16 time TBA.
Times like these I miss living in Iowa. Perhaps some of our Iowa friends will tape it for us??
I would be interested to see the issues it addresses in comparison to Max McElwain's book The Only Dance in Iowa.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New York Times on Single-Sex Education

The New York Times Magazine's cover story today is all about single-sex education. The article highlights the sharp growth in single-sex classrooms in public schools (one estimate in the article is that there were approximately 12 public schools offering single-sex programs in 2002, compared with approximately 360 today), citing a number of factors: the Department of Education's 2006 decision to promulgate regulations making it easier for districts to create single-sex classrooms without running afoul of Title IX; scientific research showing that males and females have different patterns of brain development, which some argue implicates a different learning style based on sex; the need for a more supportive environment for girls to become stronger leaders; and the sense that public schools are not doing enough to address the problem of boys failing out of school, and that perhaps single-sex education is worth a shot to see if boys' achievement improves.

Countering these arguments are numerous criticisms: that the Bush administration's encouragement of single-sex education undermines one of the primary goals of Title IX, which is to eliminate sex-based stereotypes in education; that any sex-based differences in brain development is minimal compared to individual learning preferences, and should not be interpreted in essentialist terms which would designate all boys as one type of learner, and all girls as a different type of learner; and that both boys and girls would be better served in co-educational settings by getting the individualized support necessary to be confident and to succeed academically.

I will admit to feeling conflicted about the utility of single-sex education: on the one hand, I understand the appeal of trying different techniques to encourage different types of learners, and the argument that in certain limited circumstances, a single-sex learning environment which the students (and their parents) opt into, may provide more support for certain students, and may help the students feel freed from gender stereotypes that would affect them in a co-educational setting. (This may be particularly true in the case of African-American boys, who, frankly, have been failed by public education in a number of ways).

On the other hand, the biological essentialist argument is extremely disturbing to me. One of the single-sex education proponents cited in the article, Leonard Sax, argues that human development is gendered to its core and, therefore, that boys and girls do better when separated into different classrooms. Jay Giedd, a critic of Sax's argument, points out that the biological differences between boys and girls are there, but that Sax blows their significance out of proportion. Giedd uses a good analogy: boys are, after a certain age, more likely to be taller than girls of the same age. If you decided to divide students by height, assigning the tallest 50% to use the boys' locker room, and and the shortest 50% to use the girls' locker room, "you'd end up with a better than random sort, [but] the results would be abysmal, with unacceptably large percentages of students in the wrong place."

A second problem with single-sex education is the perpetuation of gender stereotypes in how lessons are given (not the breaking down of gender stereotypes that Title IX mandates): the article discusses how in one school in Foley, Alabama which offers opt-in single-sex classrooms, an all-girls' fourth-grade class sings a song together called "Always Sisters" and then does a "tidy" experiment in measuring the relative density of oil and water, and then "confirm[s] their results with the firsthand knowledge that when you’re doing the dishes after your mother makes fried chicken, the oil always settles on top of the water in the sink." Meanwhile, their counterparts in the all-boys' classroom are discussing a story about a boy who survives a plane crash and needs to survive near a lake. Where to start with these choices on lesson plans? Why not teach the story of the plane crash AND the oil density/washing the dishes experiment to ALL of the students? Instead, the division seems to encourage boys and girls to think that they are fundamentally different, that they should care about different things in life and that they should focus on different aspects of their life outside of school as potentially helpful in the educational environment.

The story about the Foley, Ala. schools highlights the difficulty with establishing even an opt-in program: that some school districts and parents will feel entirely comfortable in perpetuating gender stereotypes in education. How to distinguish this kind of classroom from that of a different model of single-sex classroom that is able to assist in breaking down gender stereotypes is, in my view, one of the greatest challenges to establishing a potentially useful single-sex educational environment.

Under the pre-2006 Department of Education regulations, with more safeguards in place to protect against the promulgation of gender stereotypes, the Foley, Ala. curriculum might have been easier to challenge under Title IX. Under the current regulations and the attitude of the Bush administration, that's simply not the case.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Indiana girl gets baseball tryout

After being informed of its discriminatory ways, the Indiana High School Athletic Association has waived its rule that states that a girl cannot participate in baseball if the school offers softball. Baseball player Heather Bauduin is the impetus behind the waiver. She and her lawyers from Public Justice and the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin (HASP)* threatened the IHSAA with a lawsuit if it prevented Bauduin from trying out. But in the end there was no need for a lawsuit (good for Bauduin because it allows her to participate this spring). IHSAA was apparently convinced that their rule did indeed violate Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. [Though it is curious that Bauduin was granted a waiver. Why didn't IHSAA just abolish the rule once they knew it was discriminatory?]
This situation will hopefully begin to illustrate to everyone that softball and baseball are different sports. They have always been different. Softball was created to be a lesser version of baseball and though many of us do not view it as such, the nearly unquestioned absence and exclusion of girls (of a certain age) and women from baseball illustrates how "natural" this segregation has been.

* Sharon McKee of HASP was lead counsel on this case. McKee, who we had the pleasure of meeting last year at the Title IX conference in Cleveland, also worked with NCLR on the Jennifer Harris case.