Today, the Department of Education issued a new policy clarifying compliance with intercollegiate athletics and Title IX, the law that bars sex discrimination in federally-funded education. The Department’s “Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Clarification: The Three-Part Test — Part Three” revokes the policy issued in 2005 by the Bush Administration that weakened schools’ obligations under Title IX to provide equal athletic opportunities for women.
Nearly 40 years after Congress passed Title IX, girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to play sports. For example, despite the fact that females make up half or more of students in high schools and colleges, they receive only about 41 percent of the opportunities to participate in sports, and along with these diminished opportunities to play come fewer scholarship and career opportunities.
The new Department of Education policy reverses the 2005 policy that created a major loophole in Title IX compliance by permitting schools to simply send email surveys to their students asking about their interests in additional sports opportunities. If female students failed to respond, schools were allowed to conclude that the young women were not interested in more sports opportunities and had no obligation to provide them.
“The former policy was inherently flawed, and would, if followed, give schools a way to skirt the law,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center.
The new policy reinstates previous standards requiring schools to meet multiple rigorous requirements to demonstrate that they are treating females fairly. “We applaud the Department of Education’s new directive, which is a decisive move in the right direction to ensure that girls and women are offered equal opportunities to participate in sports,” Greenberger said. “Each year that a student loses a chance to participate in intercollegiate athletics means valuable opportunities that are lost forever.”
Studies show that increased athletic opportunities benefit girls and women in crucial ways — from greater academic success and higher graduation rates to responsible social behavior and increased personal skills. Athletes are less likely to smoke or use drugs and have lower rates of sexual activity and teen pregnancy than non-athletes.
“Now that the Title IX policies are back on track to secure equal opportunity for young women to play sports, we call on the Office for Civil Rights to begin vigorous enforcement effort,” Greenberger said.