A group of parents have reportedly complained to the administration of Castle Rock High School, in Washington, about the unequal treatment received by the girls soccer team, which plays on a field without lights while the football team plays in a comfortable, lighted stadium that it does not share with other teams. As a result, girls’ games are sometimes called early due to darkness, which reduces their playing time in a way that football players never experience — sometimes J.V. games have been shorted to as little is 32 minutes, instead of the usual 80. (The boys’ soccer team does not use the stadium either, but their season is in the spring so they don’t have the darkness problem.) Adding insult to injury, they claim, is the fact that while their games are called for darkness, the football stadium is sitting unused, because their game schedule does not conflict with high school football practice and game times.
To me it sounds like the parents have a reasonable request and a good case that a Title IX violation is occurring. The law requires equal treatment of male and female athletes. If there is a privilege bestowed to some athletes of one sex, it should be shared among a comparable number of athletes of the other sex.
Moreover, none of the school district’s apparent reasons for barring the girls from the stadium are recognized exceptions to the to the requirement of equal treatment. If it really is too costly to let both teams play in the lighted stadium, as one quoted official suggested, equality would require a fair distribution of those funds so that girls and boys can both play there sometimes. School officials also seem to be reluctant to let the soccer team share the stadium because that would mean bumping the middle school football team to another location, and those parents would complain. But not only is it perfectly fair and reasonable to prioritize high school athletes over middle school athletes, it is still a gender equity problem when the middles school and high school boys get better treatment than high school boys.
Finally, officials might also be laboring under the misbelief that as long as other school districts in the area doing the same thing, everything is fine, as the Superintendent quoted in story says she’s “looked at a lot of the facilities in our league in our area, and I don’t find us to be the only school district with a soccer field that doesn’t have lights. Nor do I find us to be the only district that doesn’t play on the football field.” In fact, Title IX does not recognize an “everyone’s doing it” defense. These kinds of violations are common, to be sure. It certainly seems like a lot of school officials are misinformed about the equal treatment requirements under Title IX. But what we’ve noticed on here at the Title IX Blog is that usually when people complaint about them, they eventually prevail. Castle Rock might not be the only school in Washington that isn’t giving its girls’ soccer team an equal shake, but that doesn’t mean its immune from enforcement.