The Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, most commonly known as Title IX, was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1972. The law states that, No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...”. The enforcement of Title IX is in the hands of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
During the past six years, the OCR has received three complaints from a Darien resident regarding unequal treatment between male and female athletes at Darien High School. These complaints have resulted in the OCR investigating and finding that DHS needs to address certain Title IX compliance issues.
According to Mr. John Keleher, Athletic Director at Darien High School, the initial complaint occurred in 2007 and concerned unequal swim time for the Boys and Girls Swim Teams at the Darien YMCA. A letter was written directly to the OCR outlining DHS’s alleged violation of Title IX. Two other complaints of similar form were subsequently filed. As a result, the OCR investigated the DHS Athletic Department and demanded a series of changes. Some of these changes included providing locker space to the Girls Gymnastics Team, giving Boys and Girls Swim Teams equal pool time, enabling swimmers and divers to practice at the same pool, and improving the conditions of the girls’ softball field.
One of the areas of concern in complying with Title IX and satisfying the requirements of the OCR involves the construction of the artificial turf for the Boys Baseball Team. When we first decided to build the baseball turf we called the NCAA and the OCR to ensure that we were not running the risk of violating Title IX. We were told that we would probably not be in violation of it,” Mr. Keleher said. The DHS Athletic Department and the OCR were able to defend the construction of an artificial turf for the boys’ team because the girls’ softball field is in pristine condition and the artificial turf is used by both the field hockey and football teams during the fall. The one concern that remains is that the bull pens on the softball field are not as nice as the ones on the baseball turf.
Despite the complaints that DHS has received, there is virtually 50/50 participation opportunity for boys and girls at DHS. Based on the Eligibility List breakdown for the 2010-2011 school year, DHS had 771 eligible male students and 754 eligible female students. Of these students, 514 were male athletes while 479 were female athletes. The OCR and DHS Athletic Department look at total enrollment and participation in athletics as a percentage of total enrollments and expect such percentage for boys and girls to be within a percent or so of that. The athletic department must also ensure that there are a fairly equal number of boys and girls sports teams. For example, the Boys Rugby Team was recently added as a varsity sport at DHS. Therefore, the next varsity team to be added to the DHS Athletic Department will most likely need to be a girls team.
While high school sports teams need to comply with Title IX and the requirements of the OCR to ensure equal distribution between males and females in the athletic departments, colleges have even more to lose if they fail to comply with Title IX. Brown University was one of the first universities to be compelled by a judicial decision to comply with Title IX in fielding its athletic teams. If universities do not comply with the Title IX requirements, they are subject to a loss of federal funding. This is a huge threat for colleges because a loss of federal funding for financial aid, research and certain programs could be very detrimental to the institution. For this reason, universities pay special attention to balancing participation of men and women in college sports.
“When I was a track coach at the college level at Central Connecticut State University, I had a cap on how many men I could recruit onto the team. However, the women’s coach was told that she needed to grow her team,” Mr. Keleher said.
Check out more info on Title IX specifics: http://www.darienps.org/current/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=143