Monday, January 22, 2018
Susan Eckes, Title IX at 45: Equal Treatment of Students in High School Athletic Programs, 25 Amer. J. Gender, Social Policy & Law 391 (2017)
It is the 45th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and some high schools continue to struggle with their compliance in athletics by showing a preference for boys’ athletic programs. A 2015 report issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) indicated that there were 3,609 complaints related to athletics in 2013-2014. While much of the litigation in this area has traditionally addressed high school accommodation claims, more recent litigation has begun to also focus on equal treatment claims that might include scheduling or facility disparities involving athletics. For example, in April 2016, ten female softball players sued under Title IX in federal court in Portland, Oregon. In this complaint, the plaintiff’s sought injunctive relief to remedy the inequities that exist between the softball and baseball team facilities. Others have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education (“ED”) regarding similar inequalities. In Canton, Ohio a father filed a complaint with the ED arguing that the girls’ softball team did not have equitable facilities when compared to those of the boys’ team. Specifically, the girls went eight seasons without a home field whereas the boys only went two seasons without a home field. Likewise, in Lexington, South Carolina parents filed a complaint with the ED related to unfairness involving facilities between the boys’ baseball team and girls’ softball team.
In recent years, several courts have addressed these issues regarding the multitude of inequalities between male and female sports. In these lawsuits, female plaintiffs or their parents typically allege violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and/or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the athletic facilities are inadequate or the athletic team’s schedules are inopportune.10 Because K-12 athletic programs have received increased scrutiny from the courts in recent years, this article explores litigation involving high school athletic programs that focus on disparities with facilities and schools in an effort to highlight the existing legal obligations of school districts.11 It concludes with some suggestions for school officials to create more parallel athletic environments.