The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new resources to support equal opportunity in athletic programs consistent with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance and is enforced by OCR.
OCR designed these resources to help students, parents, coaches, athletic directors, and school officials evaluate whether a school is meeting its legal duty to provide equal athletic opportunity regardless of sex. Meeting a school’s legal duty under Title IX means (1) effectively accommodating the sexes equally in their athletic interests and abilities and (2) providing equivalent benefits, opportunities and treatment given to teams, regardless of sex.
Meeting students’ athletic interests and abilities
When OCR evaluates whether a school’s athletic program complies with Title IX, a school may choose one of three ways to demonstrate that it is meeting the interests and abilities of its student body. Those include:
- Substantial Proportionality: whether the percentage of girl and boy participants is about the same as the percentage of girls and boys enrolled in the school.
- History and Continuing Practice: whether the school can show a history and present practice of expanding its program to respond to the interests and abilities of girls, if girls have been underrepresented, or boys, if boys have been underrepresented.
- Interests and Abilities of Students: whether the school can show that, despite disproportionality, the program meets the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.
Providing equivalent benefits, opportunities, and treatment
OCR considers many factors on a case-by-case basis to determine compliance with Title IX, and takes into account the specific circumstances of the school and its program. That said, answering no to any of these questions may indicate a possible Title IX violation:
- Does your school provide athletic gear of equivalent quality, quantity, suitability, condition, and availability for boy and girl athletes?
- Do athletes have locker rooms of equivalent size and quality?
- Are training and conditioning facilities of equivalent quality?
- Do have equivalent access to facilities? To medical and training personnel/services?
- Does your school provide equivalent coverage to boys and girls teams?
- Are cheerleaders, pep bands, and drill teams provided equivalently?
- Do boys’ and girls’ teams have reasonable opportunity to complete before an audience?
- Do the boys’ and girls’ teams play an adequate number of regular season games to compete for the division level?
- Are practice times equally convenient for both boys and girls?
- Are the number and length of practice sessions equivalent for girls’ and boys’ teams?
- Do girls’ and boys’ teams use equivalent modes of transportation?
- Do athletes have equivalent accommodations when traveling? Are they offered equivalent meal allowances?
- Do boys’ and girls’ teams have coaches with equivalent qualifications?
- Are coaches available to both boys and girls for equivalent amounts of time?
- Do coaches of boys’ and girls’ teams receive equivalent compensation? If not, can nondiscriminatory factors justify the differences?
- Do coaches of girls’ and boys’ teams have equivalent “other duties”?
If schools are not in compliance with Title IX, complaints may be made through OCR or through school grievance procedures. Every school district is reminded that it must prominently display contact information for its Title IX Coordinator.
If your school district wants to ensure its athletic policies, procedures, and practices are in compliance with Title IX, our education attorneys are available to consult on the matter, as well as other education law questions or concerns that you may have. Please contact Marsha Moses at [email protected], Michelle Laubin at [email protected], or Christine Sullivan at [email protected] for assistance.