Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fundraising at Issue in Complaint Against Oregon School District

The Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating an anonymous complaint against the Lebanon (Oregon) Community School District for sex discrimination in its athletics program. District officials told the local press that the complaint addresses the fact that the softball team does not have an all-weather batting facility like the baseball team, and that the boys' baseball team, but not the softball team, travels to Arizona for spring break. The district also stated that the baseball team "built its own batting cage" and "raised money on their own to take the trip" -- suggesting that it might be considering this a defense to Title IX liability. However, the source of funding will not likely absolve the district of obligations to provide equitable resources to girls and boys. Unless the trips or the facilities are entirely private and not part of the school athletics program (i.e., it just happens to be the case that the 2o guys on the same flight to Phoenix happen to also play for Lebanon High) then any funds raised by "the team" (read: the team's booster club) is considered a donation to the school. And while schools can accept donations and even use them for earmarked purposes, opportunities and resources still have to be equal. The school can either use other funds for equivalent perks for girls, or else decline the earmarked donation.

This seemingly harsh result is put in context by the fact that the baseball team can successfully raise funds because it is privileged to enjoy the support of parents and the community. Title IX does not require parents and communities to embrace girls' sports and help the softball team raise funds. But it does require that schools receiving federal funds do not reflect society's disparate preferences.