October 20, 2016
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Female Athletes File Complaints Against Schools

WASHINGTON - The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) has filed administrative complaints against 12 school districts across the country for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports in violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.


These complaints, which are based on the schoolsÂ’ own data, reveal pervasive and growing inequities in the number of opportunities for girls to play sports in high school. This lack of opportunity is reflected in the fact that many schools do not offer girlsÂ’ teams in such state-sanctioned sports as swimming, golf, and tennis. 


The complaints are part of NWLCÂ’s new campaign, Rally for GirlsÂ’ Sports: SheÂ’ll Win More than a Game, to educate schools, the public and especially parents about the widespread inequality that their daughters face in school sports programs and to mobilize parents to press for change.  In addition to calling on the U.S. Department of Education to investigate this growing problem, the Rally for GirlsÂ’ Sports initiative features advocacy and outreach to parents and other adults; a Facebook and Twitter campaign; a national hotline, 1.855.HERGAME, which concerned individuals can call to report inequities, and public education, including an educational webinar to help school officials, parents and advocates learn about Title IXÂ’s requirements. 


“These 12 school districts are the tip of the iceberg,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia Greenberger. “Nationwide, only 41 percent of all high school athletes are girls, even though they make up half the student population. That means schools are giving girls 1.3 million fewer opportunities than boys to play sports nationwide. It’s past time to rally for girls in high school sports.”


NWLC filed complaints with the U.S. Department of EducationÂ’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in varied school districts, one in each of the 12 OCR regions. The complaints outline the lack of opportunities to play sports that girls face in each district and call on OCR to investigate and remedy the inequities.


The Center filed the complaints against the following school districts: Chicago Public Schools (IL), Clark County School District (NV), Columbus City Schools (OH), Deer Valley Unified 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).


The selected school districts have high schools with double-digit gaps between the percentage of students who are girls and the percentage of athletes who are girls, according to the school districtsÂ’ data, and are representative of the widespread lack of athletic opportunities that girls face. For example, many sports sponsored by the relevant state high school athletic associations are not offered to girls in these districts.  Moreover, these gaps generally worsened from 2004 to 2006, the year for which the most recent data is available.


NWLC urges every school district to examine its sports programs and take all necessary steps to treat their female students fairly.


Numerous studies have documented the benefits of playing sports: greater academic success, lower rates of drug use and teenage pregnancy, and higher self-esteem. For example, young women who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school, have higher grades, and score higher on standardized tests than non-athletes. Playing sports also decreases a young womanÂ’s chance of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and other health problems, especially obesity.


“ItÂ’s unfair to girls to deny them the many benefits that come from playing sports,” said NWLC Senior Counsel Neena Chaudhry.  Â“When girls have the chance to play, they win more than a game. LetÂ’s help our daughters and our sons lead healthier, happier and more successful lives.


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