O.C.R. Official Seeks Clarification on Title IX
Washington--A regional civil-rights director for the Education Department (ed) has told his superiors here that their decision not to contest a recent federal-district-court ruling involving a Title IX athletics case is hampering his office's ability to enforce the anti-sex-discrimination statute.
In an Oct. 6 memorandum to ed's assistant secretary for civil rights, the department's Region III civil-rights director, Dewey E. Dodds, warned that if a clarification of the court decision is not requested, his office "will be required to operate under two distinct and contradictory legal bases" when enforcing Title IX.
At present, there are no Title IX-related investigations under way at the precollegiate level in Region III, according to ed officials, although the statute does apply to all levels of education.
The confusing situation in ed's regional office exists as a result of conflicting court rulings that have been handed down in Title IX-related lawsuits during the past few months.
On Aug. 7, a federal district judge in Richmond, Va., ruled that ed could not require the University of
Richmond's athletic department to comply with Title IX regulations because the athletic department is not a direct recipient of federal funds.
Then, on Aug. 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit--whose opinions are binding in Virginia--ruled in another Title IX lawsuit, involving Grove City College, that if an educational institution receives any federal funds at all, all of its programs and departments must comply with the statute. The court affirmed this position in yet another lawsuit, this one involving Temple University's athletic department, a few weeks later.
A substantial part of ed's Region III shares common boundaries with those of the Third Circuit, meaning that the court's rulings are binding on Mr. Dodds's office.
But in the University of Richmond case, the judge barred ed officials from investigating any educational institutions within his jursidiction unless the officials could show that the institution or program to be investigated received federal monies directly.
That order, Mr. Dodds said in his memo, has stymied his office's attempts to require the athletic department at William and Mary College to comply with the statute.
In a footnote, he added that continued federal financing of the college, an institution that his office has determined to be in noncompliance with Title IX, "may present serious legal problems under" the Fifth Amendment's due-process provisions.
Mr. Dodds also warned in his memo that his office's inability to deal effectively with the problem at William and Mary "will not go unobserved by sophisticated recipients" of federal funds, including those at at Pennsylvania State University, where an athletics-related Title IX compliance review is also being conducted by Region III personnel.
L. Jane Glickman, a spokesman for ed's office for civil rights, said last week that the assistant secretary for civil rights, Harry M. Singleton, had received the internal memo but had not yet prepared a response to it.
"In the eastern district of Virginia," Mr. Dodds said in his memo, "our hands are currently tied. Without clarification, [ed] will evidently continue to provide substantial and significant financial assistance to a recipient which we have determined to be in violation of the requirements of Title IX."
Moreover, Mr. Dodds said, schools and colleges within his region have kept close watch over the conflicting court rulings involving Title IX and how his office has reacted to them.
For example, he said, officials at Pennsylvania State University "have denied [his office] information on its athletic department policies and practices on essentially the same grounds as were asserted by the University of Richmond."
But because the university is located within the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit, "we have a sound legal basis for proceding to enforcement against it," Mr. Dodds continued.
"Therefore," he said, "we may be placed in the rather peculiar position of proceeding against Penn State for denial of information necessary to investigate its athletic program, but closing our case against William and Mary where we have determined that a substantive civil-rights violation in its athletic program exists.
"Yet, in both cases, the factual basis for our jurisdiction is the same," he pointed out.
If ed refuses to request that the Justice Department seek a clarification of the University of Richmond ruling in light of the Third Circuit's opinions in the cases involving Grove City College and Temple University, Mr. Dodds concluded, his office will be forced to close its case against William and Mary, "a course of action which will almost assuredly reduce the goal of assuring equal athletic opportunities for female college students to a nullity in Region III."