Friday, July 31, 2009

List of Statewide Title IX Coordinators

Here is the Feminist Majority Foundation's 2009 list of Title IX Coordinators designated by state education agencies. These individuals advise their agencies about gender equity issues and provide support to Title IX coordinators at the district and school level.

FMF explains the importance of keeping/publishing such as list:
Title IX regulations specify that each recipient of federal financial assistance “designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out Title IX responsibilities” and that names and contact information for Title IX coordinators be made public. If everyone complies with this law there should be over a hundred thousand Title IX coordinators making sure that all students and staff are informed of their rights and protections against sex discrimination. However, it is difficult to find these coordinators so it is not surprising that a recent study found that fewer than 20 percent of teachers understand what Title IX covers and only a miniscule percent of students and parents are aware of their rights under Title IX. More Title IX coordinators doing their job in a proactive way with support from their employers and external advisers can prevent sex discrimination rather than just helping those who have suffered from discrimination file complaints.
Thanks, FMF, for improving access to Title IX coordinators at the state level!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Irvine forced to cut sports

The University of California Irvine is looking to cut $1 million from its budget by doing some reshuffling and, unfortunately, by cutting sports. Five programs will be discontinued next year: men's and women's swimming/diving, sailing, and women's and men's rowing. Given the current fiscal crisis in the country in general, but of course in California, the cuts are not surprising and likely not the last we will see out of CA schools.
No word on how this will affect UC Irvine's adherence to California state school's equity requirements.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FGCU Athletic Department Earns High Marks in External Review

Today the external review team assigned to evaluate Florida Gulf Coast University athletic department's compliance with Title IX released its final report (news coverage) (report). The review was conducted as part of a settlement of litigation involving claims that the university discriminated and retaliated against female coaches who had voiced concerns about inequality in the department.

Though the report does not examine or address discriminatory environment for female coaches, administrators, or other university employees, it does suggest that female athletes are currently receiving equal or favorable treatment in all of the major areas identified by Title IX regulations as indicative of equality in the athletic opportunities provided to both sexes. According to the report's lead author, Dr. Christine Grant, the university has been "overly generous" to female athletes in terms of scholarships, it provides athletic opportunities to women in proportion to their representation in the student body, and it is providing opportunities of comparable quality to its male and female athletes, indicated in part by the fact proportionate funding for women's athletics.

Included in the report's analysis was a comparison of the quality of coaching male and female athletes receive. Because the recent litigation against FGCU involved female coaches' claims of employment discrimination, I was particularly interested in this aspect of the report. As it turns out, head coaches of FGCU's women's teams earn more than coaches of men's teams, despite having fewer years of experience on average. Moreover, female athletes were more likely to have coaches with multi-year contracts, an indicator of job security for the coach which provides stability for the student athlete. While the fact that women's coaches are less experienced than men's raises some concern, the fact of their earning more suggests that the university is recognizing the value of women's sports and trying to equalize salaries in a historically underpaid profession. It bears noting, however, that the report does not evaluate any factors that may have bearing on the claims, raised in the earlier litigation, of discrimination against female coaches, since it only reports differences between coaches of men's teams (all male) and coaches of women's teams (3 women, 5 men).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Student Note Examines Schools' Liability for Sexual Harassment

New student-authored scholarship in the Valparaiso University Law Review offers a critical examination of the Title IX standard for sexual harassment in the particular context of harassment of student-athletes. Brianna Schroeder argues that the standard for evaluating a school's liability for sexual harassment, first outlined in Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, provides incentives for universities to develop sexual harassment policies that more focused on preventing liability than on preventing harassment itself. She argues that in order to counteract this incentive, the Department of Education should promulgate additional regulations to ensure that schools address harassment in a preventive manner. Such requirements could include affirmative obligation to notify student athletes and athletic department employees of existing sexual harassment policies and individuals in the institution who are qualified to receive reports of harassment when it occurs.

Citation: Brianna J. Schroeder, Power Imbalances in College Athletics and an Exploited Standard: Is Title IX Dead, 43 Val. U. L. Rev. 1483 (2009).

Oh, Florida

There is no new news to report out of Florida and the situation with the Florida High School Athletic Association. But there has been plenty of media coverage--including editorials that ask the hackneyed question: "Is it time to revise Title IX?" Various constituencies and individuals have been asking that question since the 70s.

But Lee Nessel asks it anyway in light of the FHSAA lawsuit. She also points out that she benefitted from Title IX as a swimmer at a DI institution. But she says she also benfitted from football which funded swimming (as well as other sports).

And Ray McNulty doesn't actually ask about revision--he just says that Title IX should exclude football because football is popular and generates revenue.

None of these excuses are new. But they are especially disappointing, to me at least, when they are proferred here, in the current debate that centers on high school athletics. It seems more perverse somehow to simply disregard the educational mission of schools--the mission that Title IX aims to keep equitably applied. That intercollegiate athletics has become the model to follow despite its obvious and numerous problems is disheartening.

And thus it's not surprising that we keep hearing--over and again--the same rationales for football's exemption, now being given in the context of high school football which McNulty calls "a different animal." Yeah, it's an animal. An animal that eats up the opportunities for men and is never held accountable.

And speaking of accounting. All this football revenue talk is being done without a lot of numbers. FHSAA never offered a specific economic rationale for its decision not to cut football contests.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another baseball/softball comparison

Add C.D. Hylton High School in Virginia to the list of schools being investigated for facility disparities. Like numerous (over 40 according to WaPo) high schools in the United States, C.D. Hylton has a great baseball facility and a sub par softball facility.
The baseball field has: press box, concessions, and locker room. (Some of these amenities were funded by donations and booster club dollars.) Softball? No access to concessions; a port-o-potty; no dedicated press box; no locker room.
A complaint was filed in March by a parents of a softball player.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Reaction to IHSAA lawsuit

Seems as if reaction is mixed regarding the current scheduling of boys and girls basketball games in Indiana. This also means there is mixed reaction over what schedule changes might occur if the lawsuit is successful.
It certainly does not appear that--at least for now--the lawsuit has engendered any violent or overly passionate responses that involve bashing Title IX or girls' sports generally. Always a good thing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Scheduling at issue in Indiana

The scheduling of girls' and boys' high school basketball games in Indiana has long been an issue; an issue the Indiana High School Athletic Association has seemingly chosen to ignore. But a recent lawsuit filed by a parent will probably make them pay attention.
In the late 1990s IHSAA was told there were scheduling issues but, according to the lawsuit, nothing has been done to remedy the disparities.
At issue is the primetime scheduling boys receive while the girls play the majority of the basketball games on weeknights and Saturday afternoons.
The lawsuit was filed by a former* girls' basketball coach on behalf of her two daughters.
OCR warned IHSAA in 1997 about the scheduling problems.
Now IHSAA must respond to the charges within 23 days.

* Interestingly she was not rehired to coach the high school team in Franklin County. Wonder if there is a retaliation suit in here somewhere??

Friday, July 17, 2009


The piece the NYT ran about FHSAA's decision to reverse its earlier inequitable cuts was the most comprehensive one I read. In addition to reporting on the situation in Florida, it notes that other state high school athletics associations have enacted similar budget-saving measures--some equitable, some not so much. In Delaware varsity football was spared from cuts to contests that everyone else will experience in the coming season.
The situation in Florida should put every other high school athletic association on notice. Of course, as we saw in Florida, these associations are not just going to remedy these things of their own volition.
As Roger Dearing, executive director of FHSAA said, "The board was in no way acting in a discriminatory way against girls. We were reacting to a crisis in the state of Florida.”
Except that they were acting in a discriminatory way as they reacted to the economic crisis. How is it not discrimination when you are asking one group of (historically oppressed) people to bear the burden of that crisis?
The problem is that the decision makers have a problem with which they must deal and they the concept of equitable distribution of the pain is not even on their radar screens when they make the tough decisions.
I doubt this will be the last we hear of this kind of situation.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FHSAA takes it back

The cuts to the number of interscholastic competitions, passed by the Florida High School Athletic Association in April, were rescinded yesterday in an emergency meeting, as expected.
There will still be a hearing tomorrow to consider the injunction brought by Florida Parents for Athletic Equity against FHSAA, which would prevent the latter group from going through with the cuts at a later date. FHSAA also has a motion to dismiss FPAE's lawsuit.
Even though FHSAA itself will not be able to govern the schedules, individual schools or districts can, in their own attempt to cut costs, reduce competitive schedules. Of course, anyone who does will also be bound by Title IX regulations, and it's likely that everyone involved in high school athletics in Florida is on alert about the concept of equitable cuts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rescinding on the horizon

The Florida High School Athletic Association is meeting (I thought tomorrow but this article implies it is today) and is likely to overturn its own decision to cut varsity sport competitions--except in football and "competitive" cheerleading--by 20 percent.
FHSAA still has pending a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit that Florida Parents for Athletic Equity have filed. But that hearing is not schedule until later this week.
FPAE has said it will continue in its pursuit of an injunction against FHSAA whatever comes from this emergency meeting. Nancy Hogshead-Makar has said the injunction will prevent FHSAA from enacting the cuts in the future, a move she finds plausible given that FHSAA seemed to be motivated toward change only by the threat of litigation.
No word on the emergency meeting on FPAE's Facebook page. The latest update commented on FHSAA's attempt at deeming football and co-ed sport.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sand volleyball recalled

Somehow we missed the news that sand volleyball, the newly named NCAA emerging sport, has been called back to the drawing board.
It seems San Diego State University had been planning to add sand volleyball along with women's lacrosse. SDSU must meet the gender equity standards established for all California state universities. In particular SDSU must raise the number of scholarships female student-athletes receive.
But it won't be doing it with sand volleyball (though lacrosse is still a go) because of concerns raised over the costs of sand volleyball (not sure the specifics of this concern) and that it would essentially turn into an additional season for indoor volleyball players and thus not in the true spirit of adding opportunities for women. And so the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet has put on hold plans to develop, well a plan, for sand volleyball. The fate of sand volleyball will not be decided until next year.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Banning Boy from Field Hockey Underscores Discrimination and Stereotypes Against Girls

A Waynesboro, PA high school principal's decision to prohibit a male student from trying out for field hockey is being decried by some as "reverse discrimination." Reverse discrimination? Invoking Title IX, the principal told Mat Levine that (1) his presence would make the sport unsafe for the girls, (2) that parents would be jealous of his playing time, and (3) that it would take away opportunities for girls in violation of Title IX. These reasons are are all evidence of the stereotypes and discrimination that girls still must face. People still assume that girls -- even high school field hockey players -- are so weak and feeble to be threatened by one 10th grade boy. He has never played the sport before, and the article makes it sound like he is new to sports in general. Give the girls some credit -- if he makes the team as a rookie, those girls can surely hold their own. Some may suggest that by virtue of his sex, Mat has size and strength advantage. But no such advantage is suggested in the article. Odds are if Mat was a big, strong guy, he'd have already have a fall sport. Just because boys on average are bigger than girls does not automatically make Mat the biggest and strongest person on the team. Besides, if the concerns really are about size, why aren't there similar restrictions and safety concerns targeting the biggest and strongest girls on the team?

Parents jealous and overprotective of their daughters? Sounds like another manifestation of the same stereotypes discussed above.

The only valid reason to exclude Mat from playing field hockey is number three: to protect athletic opportunities for girls, who have fewer opportunities. Fine. But the solution to this problem, really, is to provide equal opportunities for girls to begin with. The principal should own up to the fact, if it is indeed the case, that the school already discriminates against girls in violation of Title IX, and that is the reason Mat can't play -- not the law. Mat is a victim of sex discrimination in this case. But he is collateral damage in the longstanding and ongoing discrimination against girls.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

FHSAA seeks dismissal

In the "you've got to be kidding me" moment of the week (of course, it's only Tuesday, and things can change quickly in Title IX land--especially when it comes to litigation) the Florida High School Athletic Association has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by Florida Parents for Athletic Equity for inequitable cuts to game schedules. The rationale: football is a co-ed sport so the cuts will affect boys and girls equitably.
At least three girls in the state of Florida play high school football. So, sure, that's equitable.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who is representing FPAE, noted that people have been trying to exempt football from Title IX regulations since Title IX was first passed--and they have been unsuccessful. But this is a new one. After all, most of the fights are to keep girls out of football. In fact much of the work in maintaining male dominance in sport and beyond relies on the absence of girls and women from football.
I could applaud FHSAA for attempting to alter this paradigm but I think this maneuver is more about self-protection than bringing down the patriarchy.
Besides the fact that, as Hogshead-Makar notes, Title IX does not mandate co-ed football teams (because of the contact sport exemption), the theory and the practice are quite different here. We don't even have to talk intended effects here--exempting football will have the actual effect of disproportionately affecting the opportunities girls get for competition.
The judge is set to rule on the motion July 17--two days after FHSAA has scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the lawsuit and injunction.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A cheerleading PS

A recently released study from University of North Carolina says, not surprisingly, that cheerleading is the most injury-laden women's sport.
So while the status of cheerleading may be somewhat contested these days, the fact that it is dangerous is not.
This is not to say that because cheerleading is dangerous, it should not be given status as a sport. After all how would we defend football and ice hockey? One might even argue that because cheerleading has not been a sport, it has produced more injuries. The cheerleading governing system is a little different than, for example, the NCAA. It is possible that a more authoritative governing body could reduce injuries by regulating things like throws, tosses, etc. or mandating certain safety measures.
So I mention it here not as a condemnation of making cheerleading a sport, but rather a reminder to those who seek to elevate it varsity status at their respective institutions. Cheerleading requires the same attention as other sports. And based on the injury rates, it is going to require a lot of access to medical personnel; trainers and doctors who travel with the team to competitions, etc. In other words, you cannot just add it and think it is going to take care of itself or be a team you can pay minimal attention to. Because if you elevated it to help with some Title IX inequities in the participation numbers, you're just creating more by not providing equitable treatment.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Darien Board of Ed is Cautious About Accepting Gift

A foundation has offered to donate $50,000 to support athletics at Darien (Connecticut) High School, but the Board of Education is exercising caution about whether to accept the funds, which are earmarked for the support of football ($25,000), girls' swimming ($12,500) and girls' lacrosse ($12,500). The Board wants to make sure it can use the funds without creating new disparities between boys' and girls' sports, or exacerbating those that have been the subject of recent Office for Civil Rights investigation and agreement.

The Board is right to exercise caution, as Title IX does not contain any exceptions for discrimination supported by donations or other private funding. A school could not, for example, use a gift to provide luxury accommodations for the football team where no girls team receives similar treatment. It would also be problematic if spending the gift equally on girls' and boys' sports brought the quality of the best-supported girls' teams from fair to good and the quality of the best-supported boys' team from good to great. Thus, it concerns me a little that in its outline of how it would spend the money, the school district proposes purchasing basic amenities for girls' teams (like offset of the pool rental for the swim team and bus travel for lacrosse) and what might be considered luxury items for the football team ("computer equipment, professional development for coaches, buses and lifting platforms.") However, this is not necessarily unlawful, as long as the school district can ensure that girls' and boys' programs in the aggregate have comparable equipment, facilities, supplies, and other resources. It may be that the district money that would have gone to pool rental, say, can be used to ensure that girls teams have whatever technological support, professionally trained coaches, and other equipment they might require.

All in all, the fact that the donor supported both girls and boys sports makes it easier for Darien to accept and use the gift. However, it certainly would have been better and fairer had the gift been unrestricted for athletics. That way, the district could have used as much as it needed to offset existing disparities first.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Eighth Circuit to Women Prisoners: Take Parenting and "Health Lifestyles," Not Accounting

[Guest post authored by my colleague, Giovanna Shay]

On July 2nd, the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion rejecting a challenge to women's prison programming under Title IX and Equal Protection, the latest in a series of such cases from that region. Yesterday's opinion, Roubideaux v. North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2009 WL 1885431 (8th Cir. 2009), joined suits brought by prisoners in women's facilities in Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. In Roubideaux, as in the other cases, the women prisoners lost.

Until 1998, North Dakota women prisoners were housed at facilities with male inmates. At the time that they filed suit, they were facing transfer to other institutions, including county jails, where they feared that programming and educational opportunities would be inferior. They filed suit under Title IX and §1983.

The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. In its factual findings, it determined that all prisoners could take computer classes, work force training classes, and college classes. Prisoners at the female facility could take a welding class and "classes in basic parenting, social skills, speech, and healthy lifestyles." By contrast, prisoners at the men's facility could take a food service vocational program, an auto technical program, welding and carpentry classes, accounting, restaurant management, and heating and air conditioning courses. It also rejected women prisoners' claims that there were "gender-based inequalities" in the prison industries program (in which the women's facility offered a "cut and sew operation" and a "lock/key industry"), concluding that the "prison industries" program was not an "educational" program within the meaning of Title IX.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling rejecting the women prisoners' claims. It concurred that the prison industries program was not an "educational" program within the meaning of Title IX. Although there is an opportunity for on-the-job training in "prison industries," the Court reasoned, it is primarily a work program, paying inmate wages, and so not covered by Title IX. The Eighth Circuit also rejected Title IX claims regarding the unequal provision of other vocational educational programming, citing its earlier decision in the Nebraska case, Klinger v. Dept. of Correction, 107 F.3d 609 (8th Cir. 1997). "Title IX requires a comparison of the educational opportunities available to female and to male prisoners within a state's entire system of federally funded correctional institutions," it wrote, "taking into account the objective differences between the male and female prison populations and such penological and security considerations as are necessary to accommodate in this unique context."

In gender-segregated prisons, the Court reasoned, "significant differences" between prison populations may exist, "such as unequal population sizes and length of stay." Title IX requires that programs in male and female prisons be compared to ensure that the prisoners in the women's facilities are receiving "equal educational opportunities consistent with those differences." The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion the differences in programming available to prisoners at the male and female facilities resulted from "the location of the inmates," not gender-based inequality. The Court of Appeals also rejected the Equal Protection challenge, concluding that there was "no inference of discrimination" because the population in the female institutions was smaller than that in the male institutions, and the transfer of the female inmates to county facilities was "substantially relate[d] to the important governmental objective of providing adequate segregated housing for women inmates." In light of the different numbers of prisoners in the male and female facilities, the Court concluded, citing its Klinger opinion, 31 F.3d 727, 733 (8th Cir. 1994), comparing their programs was like comparing "apples to oranges."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

UAA Investigation Reveals Locker Room Disparity

The University of Alaska-Anchorage has announced plans to renovate athletic facilities to create two additional locker rooms that would provide more space to female athletes. An internal investigation into concerns the athletic department's gender equity revealed that due to the men's basketball and hockey teams currently each have their own locker rooms and individual lockers for each player, which contributes to an overall disparity in which 57% of male athletes have individual lockers compared to 13% of female athletes and in which male athletes averaged 11 square feet of locker room space compared to seven square feet per woman.

UAA agreed to conduct the investigation after an anonymous individual filed a complaint with Office for Civil Rights; OCR has accepted UAA's report and plan of action, obviating the need for further investigation on this issue. UAA is still in the process of investigating and reporting on the other disparities raised in the complaint, which related to the quality of coaching and access to medical training.

I was disappointed that the article about the locker room findings does not quote UAA's athletic director. As you may recall from our prior post about this complaint, he was shocked (shocked!) at the suggestion that the university discriminated against female athletes. He said, "This complaint is mind-boggling to me. To tell the truth, I can't wait for them [OCR] to come up here....The idea that we are disadvantaging our women athletes is absolutely ridiculous." Is his mind still boggled, or is he getting his head around the fact that discrimination in fact occurs?