The Department of Education, after mulling the handiwork of a commission that studied Title IX, has renewed its support of the 31-year-old law that bars gender discrimination on the playing fields of schools and colleges receiving federal funds.
On July 11, the department issued a three-page clarification of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Signed by Gerald A. Reynolds, the assistant secretary for civil rights, the clarification upheld existing laws and regulations, but urged schools and colleges to use all options available to prove their compliance.
The clarification followed a February report by the 15-member, federally appointed Commission on Opportunity in Athletics that examined sports programs and the law, which also covers academics and other programs. The commission made 23 recommendations to Secretary of Education Rod Paige, but in a controversial move, two panel members submitted their own report. (“Title IX Review Concludes With Competing Reports,” March 5, 2003.)
Three Equal Prongs
Those members, soccer star Julie Foudy and Olympic swimming gold medalist Donna de Varona, called the main report flawed and sided with women’s groups that said female students remain victims of discrimination.
Other groups, including those representing so-called “minor” mens sports, such as wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming, have said enforcement has forced colleges to cut their programs.
The July 11 clarification continued to endorse the department’s “three-pronged test,” which provides three ways for schools and colleges to prove they’re in compliance. However, the Reynolds document acknowledged that many colleges continue to use only the measure known as proportionality—demonstrating that the percentage of women participating in varsity sports is comparable to their slice of their institution’s overall enrollment.
The document emphasized that “each of the three prongs of the test is an equally sufficient means of complying ...”
Schools and colleges may also demonstrate compliance by showing a history of expanded opportunities for the underrepresented sex, or by showing that the needs of the underrepresented gender are accommodated by existing programs.
The Bush administration had been accused by several women’s advocacy groups of trying to dismantle Title IX through the commission-study process, but those groups praised the clarification.
“This is a huge victory for women and girls everywhere,” Marcia D. Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, based in Washington, said in a statement.
But some groups that have championed men’s sports, including the National Wrestling Coaches Association, vowed to continue fighting against what they consider unfairness in the application of Title IX. Last month, a federal judge ruled against the coaches association in its lawsuit alleging that Title IX discriminates against men.