Title IX and High School Sports in the News

A recent article in the SportsTribune (Battle over high school girls sports participation levels far from over) brings to light a brewing issue regarding Title IX and high school sports. It is claimed in the piece that the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has charged “12 school districts throughout the country – including locales in Chicago, Houston, New York City, Irvine, Calif., and Worcester, Mass. – with failure to provide high school girls equal opportunities to play sports in violation of Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.”

According to the piece, these charges are part of an initiative by the NWLC to get information out regarding ‘“widespread inequities their daughters face in school sports programs, and to mobilize parents to press for change.”’ A complaint by the NWLC has been filed with the Office of Civil Rights.

Also detailed throughout the article is the perspective from the “College Sports Council” (CSC) where they raise concern over the number of complaints that could be brought forth, the legal costs to school districts who choose to fight these allegations, and the potential loss of “one-million male athletes” because of the possible “gender quotas” that would likely result from the NWLC actions.

The CSC’s biggest concern lies with the proportionality piece of Title IX, where the percentage of male to female students in the school must also be reflected in its athletic population. This, they say, was meant for college athletics where scholarships and recruiting exist.

From my perspective, the difficulties portrayed in this article center largely on what “equal opportunity” really should mean. Regardless of the three-prong requirement that Title IX brings to the table, as detailed in the article, I do not believe too many individuals would want to cut boys’ opportunities in order to give girls more options. And to say that that would not happen if the proportionality piece is applied arbitrarily across the board is simply foolish.

On the other hand, I also don’t believe too many individuals would say that girls should not be afforded the same sporting opportunities that their male counterparts have. That would be…well, sexist.

As a father of two female athletes, I have to say that I am very happy we have moved from a very male-dominated sports environment, like the one I competed in in the 70’s, to one where females have many more equitable opportunities than in the past. And that is both inside and outside of the athletic arena.

However, I do believe more work needs to be done with regard to defining what we truly want “equal opportunity” to mean, taking into account not only the situation at hand but also the likely consequences when our equal opportunity definition is applied in reality. We should not create a situation where one group must suffer for the good of another; that is not equitable.

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