By Laura Pappano
The National Women’s Law Center filed complaints today against 12 school districts (see press release here) that are meant to be a sampling – not an exhaustive expose of who’s ignoring Title IX.
The suit is a reminder that, although Title IX opened doors of access, that it 1) didn’t do a very good job and 2) is being ignored by districts across the country.
The NWLC argues that only 41 percent of HS athletes are girls – even though girls make up half of the student population – suggesting uneven access to teams in high school.
While grumblers may complain that “girls aren’t interested in sports” that is simply nonsense. More often, they are shut out, steered away or bowled over by obstructive school bureaucracies. (For a previous FGN post by Hannah Ritchie, a Texas high school student who filed – and won – her Title IX complaint, click here.)
The National Women’s Law Center filing is a reminder that while Title IX did increase access (although it did not demand equality) that it hasn’t even accomplished the essential goal of equal opportunity.
One of the most cited stats related to Title IX is that girls’ high school sports participation has risen 979 percent between 1971 and 2009 (according to the National Federation of State High School Associations).
But what is not made clear is that the increase – from 294,000 to 3.71 million – merely puts girls BELOW where boys HS sports participation was in 1971 (that’s was 3.66 million).
And now? There are 4.45 million boys playing HS sports.
Just because we see a lot more girls out there on the fields and in the gyms, doesn’t mean we’re there yet. Progress? Absolutely. But done? Not at all.
The lawsuit, however, also points out an even more troubling reality about Title IX: It’s too complicated for the average person to spot and draw attention to violations. (Here’s one that was missed).
The very fact that we need the NWLC to take up this cause reveals why Title IX – terrific as it was in taking many girls from no access to some access – is a limited tool for seeking fair treatment.
Yes, we need it. But it’s not enough.