Thursday, February 26, 2015

NYC Public Schools Violate Title IX With Athletic Offerings

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced this week that it has entered into an agreement obligating the New York City public schools to come into compliance after finding that the country's largest school system violated Title IX by depriving athletic opportunities to girls.  OCR had been investigating the school system in response to a 2010 complaint filed by the National Women's Law Center.

OCR found that the New York City Department of Education could not satisfy any one of the prongs in the familiar three-part test for measuring equity in the distribution of athletic opportunities.  The test allows schools to demonstrate compliance with evidence of either (a)  a distribution of opportunities proportionate to the percentage of students of each sex; (b) history and continuing program expansion for the underrepresented sex (here, girls); or (c) providing enough athletic opportunities to satisfy the interests of the underrepresented sex.

In examining the first prong, OCR found that NYC public high schools would have had to provided 3682 additional female athletic opportunities to achieve proportionality.  The second prong was also out of reach, as it was actually the over-represented sex that benefited more from program expansion, netting 125 more boys' teams that girls' teams over the time period under investigation. The Department also denied more requests to add girls' teams than boys' over the relevant period.

Finally, the Department could not satisfy the third prong, as it was unable to demonstrate that it even examined the interest level of its female students at all, let alone by any of the methods that OCR considers like surveys or participation data in non-scholastic athletics.  Moreover, the fact that the Department had denied requests from school principals seeking to add girls teams in sports like volleyball, softball, basketball, soccer, tennis, cross-country, bowling, golf, and swimming served to indicate unmet interest.

In response to this findings of noncompliance, the Department has now entered into an agreement obligating them to assess female students' athletic interests by multiple means including but not limited to surveys, and to add teams as appropriate in response to evidence of unmet interest. It must also develop a procedure by which students can formally request the addition of teams and provide Title IX training to athletic directors.