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New Report Shows How Girls of Color Are Doubly Disadvantaged in Access to School Sports Opportunities

Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Jessica Mendoza, Michelle Wie... The sheer excellence of these female athletes of color might lead one to think that the playing field is finally level, for all girls and women. But the sad truth is that high schools across the country still do not give girls equal opportunities to play sports, and girls of color are doubly disadvantaged. That’s the main message of a report released today by the National Women’s Law Center and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, which presents new data in a new way to highlight athletic disparities on the basis of race and gender.  

Because data on sports opportunities, or spots on teams, are not available by gender and race together, the report compares the opportunities provided by heavily minority schools (where 10 percent or less of the students are white) and heavily white schools (where 90 percent or more of the students are white). The major findings of the report are: Read more »

Title IX Enforcement Funding Gets a Boost in the President's Budget

In 1973, legendary female tennis player Billie Jean King faced taunts and disbelief when she played Bobby Riggs in the famously televised “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. 

This week, Serena Williams won her 19th grand slam title.

Today we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. We are reminded this week how far girls and women have come in sports since 1972 when Title IX was passed: women’s participation in collegiate athletics climbed from less than 16 percent in 1972 to 44 percent in the 2010-11 academic year.  Though women’s sports participation is far from equal, last year girls’ participation in high school sports hit a record-high: girls make up almost 42 percent of high school athletes. Read more »

Alert the Media: Women Play Basketball Too

It’s March Madness time, but if you only read the papers, you wouldn’t know that women are even playing basketball. Last weekend when I was on vacation, I picked up a USA Today and in the entire sports section, there was not one mention of any women’s games. It’s as though the women’s tournament doesn’t exist. The NYT Public Editor’s Journal blog recently bemoaned the lack of coverage of the women’s tournament as well. In general, women receive only about 6-8% of the total newspaper sports coverage. Coverage on TV is also far from equal, but I suppose we should be grateful that ESPN is at least broadcasting most games in the women’s tournament. Read more »

Indianapolis Joins the 21st Century and Agrees to Equal Access in Sports

For the 2010-11 school year, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) had approximately 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys enrolled in high school. Yet the school gave girls only 35 percent of the total athletic opportunities.

The 15-percentage point disparity was not based on a lack of interest in sports. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education initiated an investigation and found that IPS’s athletic program failed to provide girls equal opportunity. IPS provided fewer sports for girls, and for those sports that were provided, the female teams received inferior treatment with respect to practice fields, locker rooms, equipment, supplies, and the scheduling of practice times and games.   Read more »

Nine Ways Title IX Changed My Life

Although I was an athlete in high school, I don’t recall hearing anyone talk about National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) during those years. When I asked one of my former coaches about it, she told me that our school chose a group of girls each year to participate in NGWSD activities held at a local university. I was glad to hear this, but surprised that there was so little known about this day and its purpose. As I reflect on this day, and the importance of Title IX in sports, I thought I’d share my list of the nine things Title IX did for me: Read more »

Introduction of DC’s “Title IX Athletic Equity Act of 2013” Shows that Data Matters

Yesterday I got to see how local government can provide tools to help fight for a level playing field in athletics. Together with the Sankofa Project, the Center was proud to be recognized for their work on a bill introduced by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie with unanimous Council support.

The proposed legislation would require D.C. public schools to disclose certain key athletics equity data by gender on an annual basis, such as

  • enrollment and sports participation numbers by gender and race;
  • coach-to-athlete ratios;
  • compensation, qualifications and duties of coaches;
  • funding sources and spending;
  • scheduling and post-season play;
  • training and academic support; and
  • quality of facilities and equipment.

Under the bill, all of this information would be required to be publicly available on the city’s website. Read more »

ESPN Launches Title IX Series and Reminds Us that We Still Have a Long Way to Go

Yesterday ESPN aired the first of nine films celebrating Title IX in its “Nine for IX” series. The first one, “Venus Vs.,” is about Venus Williams’ fight for equal pay for women at Wimbledon. While it is a triumphant story in many ways, I couldn’t help but be struck (and frustrated), as I always am, at the slow pace of progress.

The fight for equal pay at Wimbledon, much like the fight for equal pay for women in general, has been going on for decades. In tennis, Billie Jean King started the effort that Venus helped bring to fruition.

Similarly, on the playing fields of our nation’s schools, the battle for gender equity rages on. Over forty years after Title IX was passed, girls are still not receiving equal chances to play or equal benefits when they do. Read more »

Leveling the Playing Field: NWLC Files Title IX Athletics Complaint against D.C. Public Schools

Faces of Title IXGirls in the District of Columbia are being shortchanged when it comes to opportunities to play sports and benefits such as coaching, facilities and equipment, in violation of Title IX. That's what we said in a complaint filed yesterday with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). 

Information provided by DCPS pursuant to a FOIA request shows disparities of over 10 percentage points and as high as 26 percentage points between girls' enrollment and the share of athletic participation opportunities provided to them in the majority of the district's 15 public high schools. These gaps mean that DCPS would need to provide almost 700 additional athletic opportunities to girls to provide parity. The Center's complaint requests that OCR investigate all District public high schools and require them to treat girls fairly. 

Check out the following snippets from the Washington Post, which published a story about the NWLC complaint: 

  • Daja Dorsey, who graduated from Ballou in June and played basketball, volleyball, softball and ran track, said the boys' football and basketball teams got more intensive coaching, more attention from recruiters and scouts and more college scholarships than the girls' teams. "It was a whole different approach for the boys," she said. "I wouldn't have minded that." 

Girls Playing Football and Breaking World Records: Title IX Turns 41

Happy 41st birthday, Title IX! Title IX, the federal law banning discrimination based on sex in federally-funded educational programs, turned 41 this past Sunday, June 23. Around this time last year, we were gearing up for the 2012 Olympics, widely hailed as the “Title IX Olympics” for the success of women athletes. Yet, the stories about girls and sports in the news this week show us how much more work needs to be done before the promise of Title IX can be fully realized. 

Last week, Abby Wambach — a member of the 2012 Olympic Gold-winning American women’s soccer team — scored her 160th international goal in a game against South Korea. In breaking Mia Hamm's previous record of 159 career international goals, Wambach became the world leader, for both men and women, in international goals. One might expect such an achievement to be splashed across the sports headlines of major newspapers, right? Wrong. Her story has been relegated to secondary status, when it has been covered at all. I was lucky to watch an ESPN documentary about Abby’s career, and her commitment to women’s professional soccer opportunities in the U.S. is remarkable. Even if major newspapers aren’t #chasingabby, I’ve been inspired to follow her career more closely. 

Next up to bat: Madison Baxter of Georgia. Madison, 12, has been playing football for years as a starting defensive tackle. She was looking forward to going out for the team when she enters the seventh grade next year, but her school told her that she would no longer be allowed on the team, because her male teammates “would begin lusting after her.” Madison had a separate locker room and changing facility, but the school’s decision has cut short her dream of becoming one of the first college-level female football players. She is fighting back via a Facebook page, “Let Her Play.” 

Of course, while these examples are disappointing to say the least, Title IX covers much more than sports. Read more »

Continuing to Level the Playing Field: NWLC Files Amicus Brief in Ollier v. Sweetwater

A League of Their Own
Source: IMDb

There may be no crying in baseball, but the lack of athletic opportunities available to girls in secondary schools across the country is definitely something you should be upset about. Just yesterday, the National Women's Law Center filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit in Ollier v. Sweetwater, a case brought by high school girls challenging their school's failure to provide them with equal athletic opportunities and the retaliation they faced after lodging a complaint. The brief supports the district court's ruling that the school failed to meet any part of Title IX's three-part participation test and that it retaliated against the class of girls when it fired their coach among other actions. The school district appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit.  Read more »