Over 6,000 New Sports Opportunities Possible for Girls!
In November 2010, NWLC filed 12 complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, pointing out that twelve school districts across the country were failing to provide equal athletic opportunities for girls, in violation of Title IX. This effort was part of a national campaign, Rally for Girls Sports, to raise awareness about the barriers girls face in in high school sports.
This week, we all had a lot to rally around. The U.S. Department of Education announced that they reached settlement agreements with four of the districts, all of which reported that they were not offering sports opportunities in equal numbers to boys and girls. In Deer Valley, Arizona; Houston, TX; Wake County, North Carolina; and Columbus, Ohio, disparities between the percentage of sports opportunities offered to boys and girls translates into 6,000 lost opportunities for girls to play sports.
But Title IX doesn’t require exact parity. In order to be in compliance in terms of athletic opportunities, if school districts don’t provide opportunities proportional to enrollment, they can show that they have continuously expanded opportunities for the under-represented gender, or that they have taken proactive steps to ensure that the underrepresented gender’s interests are being fully met. All four districts are required to conduct an assessment of potential new opportunities for girls, including the implementation of district-wide student interest surveys and the identification of popular girls’ sports played at the club or intramural level or in other local districts.
Since the filing of these complaints, some school districts were already moving towards improving and expanding opportunities for girls. In Deer Valley, Arizona, the district recently added girls’ badminton, an effort which was met with great enthusiasm, as all five schools easily fielded teams and both girls and coaches expressed strong interest in continuing to build programs. The district has also identified girls’ lacrosse as a sport to consider adding.
The resolution of these complaints highlights the need for continuing efforts to increase girls’ athletic opportunities in high school. Participation in sports is associated with myriad positive effects, including improved academic performance and emotional health. The last forty years have shown how crucial sports participation is for women and girls, and we hope that these agreements will provide such opportunities to thousands more girls.
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