Wednesday, October 05, 2011

No Investigations into Oregon Complaints

The Department of Education has announced that it will not conduct investigations into the complaints filed against 60 school districts in June.

No reasons for this decision appear in any news report available at this time. My understanding, however, is that OCR dropped the complaints because they did not contain evidence to support allegations that the districts were violating all three prongs of the three-part test, as is required for a Title IX violation to occur. Specifically, OCR required more evidence to support allegations that the districts were in violation of the third prong, which measures whether school districts have satisfied all unmet interest of the underrepresented sex. Generally, the complaint based allegations of unmet interest on the fact that districts offered fewer girls' sports than are sanctioned by the Oregon State Activities Association.

Under normal circumstances, I think that basing a prong three allegation on evidence that schools don't offer girls' sports that are popular in the state, as evidenced by their recognition by the state athletic association, is a viable one. Remember, the complainant isn't required to prove that a violation exists -- that's OCR's job -- just give the agency a reasonable basis for conducting an investigation. Moreover, the Oregon complainant isn't the first to rely on state athletic association's list of sanctioned sports to support allegations of prong three violations; the National Women's Law Center did so when it filed 12 complaints against schools across the country earlier this year, and those complaints have not been dismissed. Perhaps when faced with the prospect of a single regional office having to investigate 100 schools at once, OCR is requiring more of complainants than it ordinary would?