Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Women's Law Center Files 12 Complaints Challenging Sex Discrimination in HS Athletics

The National Women's Law Center announced today that it has filed administrative complaints against twelve school districts across the country to challenge sex discrimination in high school athletics. These districts are, according to NWLC President Marcia Greenberger, "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of the problem of sex discrimination in sports. Nationally, high school girls receive only 41% of athletic opportunities despite constituting half of the student population, which translates in absolute terms to a disparity of 1.3 million opportunities. NWLC's efforts will surely raise awareness about the problem as well as send a message that noncompliance has consequences.

NWLC singled out one school district in each of the Department of Education's 12 enforcement regions, and selected the targets based on participation data collected by OCR most recently in 2006. All of the target districts have (1) double-digit participation gaps, demonstrating a failure to comply with prong one's proportionality test, (2) a trend in declining opportunities for girls, which shows failure to comply with the continuing expansion test of prong two, and (3) schools that offer fewer sports for girls than sanctioned by state interscholastic association, suggesting a high likelihood of unmet interest in violation of prong three. Those districts are:

Chicago Public Schools (IL)
Clark County School District (NV)
Columbus City Schools (OH)
Deer Valley Unified School District (AZ)
Henry County Schools (GA)
Houston Independent School District (TX)
Irvine Unified School District (CA)
New York City Department of Education (NY)
Oldham County Schools (KY)
Sioux Falls School District (SD)
Wake County Public School System (NC)
Worcester Public Schools (MA)

If after investigation OCR determines that these districts are indeed in violation of Title IX, it will likely require the districts to agree to a compliance plan and subject the districts to continued monitoring to make sure it is sticking to the plan's deadlines for compliance. More unusual, but possible, remedies include a government lawsuit that would impose compliance obligations as part of a court order, and the termination of federal funding, although that has never occurred in Title IX history.

NWLC has posted the complaints on its website, and you can also see a chart comparing the participation rates in the target districts here.

NWLC's initiative is part of its new campaign called Rally for Girls' Sports: She'll Win More Than a Game, to provide advocacy for equity in high and outreach to parents. The initiative includes a hotline: 1.855.HERGAME, students and parents to get advice about inequities in their own districts.