Sixty Oregon school districts and nearly 100 high schools have been named in a complaint submitted to the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights for allegedly providing more athletic opportunities to boys than girls, a clear violation of Title IX.
The complaint, filed in April, draws 2006 sports participation data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (the most recent data available), which includes information from the Oregon Schools Activity Committee. According to the complaint, roughly 30 schools had double-digit percentage-point discrepancies between the number of overall female students at the respective schools and the number of female athletes.
South Eugene High School, highlighted in the introduction of the complaint, had a student body made up of 50.5 percent females, but only 21.7 percent of the school's athletes were girls. The complaint alleges that 66 more female athletes should be able to play sports at South Eugene High School in order for it to comply with Title IX.
Passed in 1972, Title IX mandates that any school that receives federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of sex when it comes to educational or athletic opportunities.
Schools can demonstrate Title IX compliance in one of three ways:
• Ensuring that female athletic participation is in proportion to total female enrollment;
• Demonstrating a history of expanding athletic opportunities for females; or
• Proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students.
If female participation starts dropping off in a given sport, Title IX is (at least theoretically) the system of checks and balances that ensures schools don't simply ignore those affected female athletes. To ensure no Title IX violations, the schools would likely have to provide a different sport for those girls, or provide an extra level (freshman/JV/varsity) in a given sport.
Bill Korach, superintendent of the Lake Oswego school district (Lake Oswego High was listed as having a 15 percentage-point disparity in the complaint), told The Oregonian that high school sports is "a much more complex picture than the numbers [in the complaint]."
"I would expect fewer females than males would participate in athletics," he said. "The demonstration for prowess in sports is a stronger determination for male status."
Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel for the National's Women Law Center, provided the paper with a counter-response to Korach's line of thinking.
"They should be adding sports that girls want to play," said Chaudhry. "The lack of interest (argument) has been used for a long time, and it's not borne out by the facts. Girls participation has gone up and up and up as they've been provided opportunities."
It's worth noting that the OCR has already begun an investigation of Washington state's office of superintendent of public instruction for possible Title IX violations. The OCR received more than 125 complaints in the past year about potential inequities in athletic opportunities for males and females in Washington schools.
The OCR wouldn't say who made the complaints against Oregon. The OCR is determining "if they [the Oregon complaints] are appropriate for OCR investigation and resolution," U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw told The Oregonian in an email.