The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights announced a settlement this afternoon with four districts regarding Title IX complaints about unequal athletic opportunities for female students.
The complaints, filed in 2010 by the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, targeted the Wake County public school system in North Carolina, the Houston Independent School District, Columbus City Schools in Ohio, and Deer Valley Unified School District in Phoenix.
Districts can prove Title IX compliance in one of three ways: Showing that neither gender is proportionally underrepresented in athletics, based on total school enrollment; demonstrating that the athletic interests of the underrepresented sex have been met; or showing a history of continually expanding athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex.
In all four cases, the civil rights office found girls to be underrepresented athletically, based on each of the districts’ total enrollment figures. (Strike one.)
During the investigations, the OCR also discovered that none of the four districts had recently gauged student interest in athletics, either. (Strike two.)
Thus, OCR entered an agreement with each of the four districts, requiring them to prove that they’re adequately meeting the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex in terms of athletics. Each district will “conduct an assessment to determine whether there are unmet interests and abilities among female students,” according to a statement released today by the Education Department.
All four districts must also create a procedure that allows students, parents, and coaches to request additional sports at the high school level.
“The agreements reached in these four cases are representative of the important Title IX work that OCR continues to do, and should provide assurance to the thousands of girls in these school districts and across the nation that fundamental fairness on the playing field and in all areas of education is within their reach,” said Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights, in a statement. “OCR will continue to vigorously work to ensure equal opportunity.”
The NWLC initially filed complaints against 12 districts in 2010; eight of those are still being investigated by the OCR.
“The resolution of these four complaints confirms NWLC’s findings that the schools’ own data demonstrate widespread disparities in opportunities,” said Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the NWLC, in a statement this afternoon. "... Our findings and OCR’s investigation underscore the urgency to treating girls fairly and putting these schools on the path toward compliance with Title IX. In the 40th year of this landmark law, it is past time to give girls equal chances to reap the many benefits of playing sports.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.