A group that included high school and college coaches, Olympic athletes, and sports experts last week urged Congress to seek a repeal of a Department of Education interpretation of Title IX that they say would reduce girls’ and women’s access to school athletics.
Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 bans sex discrimination in federally funded schools, both in academics and athletics. At a Feb. 1 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, speakers took issue with the March 2005 Education Department guidance that authorized higher education institutions to conduct surveys, including over the Internet, to measure the interest of underrepresented sexes—usually women—in sports.
The guidance was designed to allow the institutions to meet a legal test for compliance with Title IX by demonstrating that they are effectively accommodating women’s athletic interests and abilities. (“Title IX Guidance ‘Problematic,’ Critics Say,” March 30, 2005.)
Donna de Varona, an Olympic gold medalist for swimming and a sports commentator, said in her testimony that the change created a “major loophole” in Title IX compliance.
“The bottom line is that the policy allows schools to gauge female students’ interest in athletics by doing nothing more than conducting an e-mail survey and to claim … that a failure to respond to the survey shows a lack of interest in playing sports,” said Ms. De Varona, who was a member of a federal commission appointed in 2002 to study Title IX compliance.
Lynette Mund, the girls’ varsity basketball coach at West Fargo High School in North Dakota, said that in her state, girls make up 49 percent of the student enrollment, but only 40 percent of the total school athletes.
“It is one of my goals to bring this number closer to 49 percent,” she said.