Title IX's seemingly endless controversies continue with no end in sight. Last November, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed administrative complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights against twelve school districts across the country. The gist of NWLC's complaints is that the school districts are not providing opportunities for female high school students to play sports under Title IX's "three-part participation" test (actually, a test that derives not from Title IX statutory or regulatory language but from 1979 HEW policy guidance). NWLC is pushing OCR to apply the three-part test to high schools in each school district.
Now, other players have jumped into the fray. The Pacific Legal Foundation has countered the NWLC complaints with letters to each OCR Regional Office, arguing that the three-part test does not apply to high school athletics under Title IX and raising Equal Protection and public policy concerns. The Independent Women's Forum recently urged House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) to investigate the impact of Title IX's various policy interpretations on high school athletics. And the College Sports Council, a national coalition of coaches, parents, athletes, and alumni that advocates reform of Title IX enforcement, has written each school district urging them to resist NWLC's pressure.
A major concern expressed by PLF, IWF, and CSC is that applying the three-part test to high school athletics will result in school districts using proportional gender quotas that will cut athletics for male students. On the collegiate level, that indeed is what has happened: the numer of women's teams has exceeded the number of men's teams since 1995; male athletes and men's teams per school have declined from 1981 to 2005 (bad); and female athletes and women's teams per school have increased during the same period (good).
The districts facing this crossfire are the Chicago Public Schools (IL), Clark County School District (NV), Columbus City Schools (OH), Deer Valley United School District (AZ), Henry County Schools (GA), Houston Independent School District (TX), Irvine Unified School District (CA), New York City Department of Education (NY), Oldham County Schools (KY), Sioux Falls School District (SD), Wake County Public School System (NC), and Worcester Public Schools (MA). Each school district sits in a different OCR region, so this is an issue that will receive close attention and coordination from the senior folks in OCR.
These school districts are likely facing severe revenue shortfalls and can ill afford new budget items. It will be interesting to see how aggressively OCR moves on these complaints and the extent to which Congress will pressure ED to give some sway to the school districts in resolving these issues.