Girls in the Columbus school district are underrepresented on its sports teams, and the district must do something about the gap between the number of girls in Columbus schools and the number on playing fields, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced this week.
The news came as part of an announcement that the department had reached agreements with Ohio’s largest public school district and three other districts outside the state in response to Title IX complaints filed by the the National Women’s Law Center.
The complaints alleged that the Columbus school district is not providing equal opportunities for high school girls to play sports, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
The department said that the four districts entered into the agreements voluntarily and that the department had not reached formal conclusions about any lack of compliance with Title IX.
The average difference between the percentage of girls enrolled in Columbus high schools and the percentage of athletes who are girls is 10 percentage points, the women’s law center said in its complaint.
And it maintained the gap is growing:
The average of the participation gaps of the high schools in the District increased from 9.6 percentage points in 2004 to 10.4 percentage points in 2006…
At West High School, for example, the participation gap increased from 11.3 percentage points in 2004 to 15.5 percentage points in 2006.
The total number of girls’ teams at high schools in the District decreased from 124 in 2004 to 89 in 2006.
Closing that gap would mean another roughly 1,000 girls would be able able to play sports.
The agreements with Columbus and the other school districts send a message to American girls, federal Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said in a written statement:
“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.”
So what happens now? First, a survey and improved efforts to make sure students know what sports are offered, the Columbus Dispatch reported:
Under the agreement, the district will survey all female students by Sept. 10 to see what sports they’d like to play, something the district has never done at its high schools. It also will work harder to tell students what sports are offered and establish a formal way for girls and parents to request new sports.
And then, maybe, more sports for girls:
If the district finds that there are sports that girls want to play but it doesn’t offer, high-school teams could be added as soon as the second semester of the coming school year.