By guest blogger Gina Cairney
The National Women’s Law Center filed an official complaint today with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, charging D.C. Public Schools for failing to provide high school girls equal athletic opportunities under Title IX.
A review of DCPS data obtained by the NWLC through a Freedom of Information Act request, and interviews with parents of high school girls, revealed widespread, systemic failures impacting every high school in the District, according to a press release, including a lack of teams, less qualified coaches, and inadequate facilities for girls.
A quick refresher, Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.
“The District is not fulfilling its obligation to give girls in the nation’s capital an equal chance to reap the benefits of playing sports that extend far beyond the playing field,” Marcia D. Greenberger, NWLC co-president, said in the press release.
District officials, however, said in a statement that they have “pursued an aggressive agenda” over the past several years to make sure female student-athletes were able to compete in a variety of athletic programs, and “proud of the steps [they] have taken to create opportunities for our female student-athletes.”
The disparity between the percentage of girls enrolled at public schools in the District, and girls who participate in school sports is not only the largest in the Washington region, but according to a recent Washington Post report, is also wider than many urban districts similar to D.C., such as Detroit and Boston.
Data from 2010, the NWLC obtained, revealed that nine of the 15 traditional high schools in D.C. had a gap in girl’s sports participation that exceeded 10 percent, according to the Post.
To comply with Title IX, school districts have to show that a percentage of girls participating in sports is equal to the percentage attending the schools. If it isn’t, districts then must demonstrate that it’s expanding opportunities for girls, or are making accommodations to meet girls’ interests.
The NWLC argues in its complain that the District isn’t doing any of this.
There’s also a concern among some parents about the lack of athletic opportunities for their girls.
Terry Lynch, a DCPS parent and father of two girls told NWLC that “girls in D.C. are second class citizens.” When he and a few other parents pitched in to bring on a semi-professional coach to help the girl’s soccer team succeed to the finals, the school hired the coach...
for the boy’s team.
The NWLC’s Title IX complaint is one of many that have been filed in recent years. The OCR has received over 4,000 Title IX complaints since 2009, with athletics violations being the most common charge.
Last summer, the OCR announced a settlement with four districts in North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and Arizona. Earlier this year, districts in Michigan and South Carolina were faced with Title IX lawsuits.
Neena Chaudhry, the NWLC’s senior counsel and director of equal opportunities in athletics said that athletics was more than just an extracurricular activity, that “it’s about an opportunity to be part of something bigger and to learn leadership and other life skills.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.