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Hurdles Seen for Girls Despite Title IX

While the gender gap in high school sports has radically shrunk since the passage of Title IX in 1972, plenty of work remains to ensure equal opportunity for all female students, suggests a new report from the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education.

The coalition released the report in recognition of the upcoming 40th anniversary of Title IX to see how far gender equity in schools has progressed since the passage of Title IX and to gauge what's left to be done. (Be on the lookout for our coverage of the anniversary later this week and next.)

Based on the numbers alone, the progress is crystal clear. In the year leading up to the passage of Title IX, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, which only accounted for 7 percent of all high school athletes, according to the report. By 2010-11, they made up 41 percent of the high school student-athlete body, with nearly 3.2 million girls participating.

However, nearly 4.5 million boys participated in high school sports in the 2010-11 school year, which still leaves a gender gap of nearly 1.3 million athletes. For what it's worth, more than 1.1 million boys participated in high school football that school year, while only 1,395 girls did.

The coalition suggests that the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights should step up its enforcement of Title IX by "initiating proactive compliance reviews" at more schools and providing guidance on schools' Title IX questions. The organization also advocates the passage of the High School Athletics Transparency Bills, which would require high schools to report data to the Education Department on their overall male and female enrollment, along with participation data (divided by gender) for athletics. The 1994 Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act already requires postsecondary institutions to report such data.

The report also addresses some of the recent challenges raised against Title IX, particularly in terms of athletics, by saying "these criticisms are based on misinterpretations of the law and are not supported by facts." Particularly, the coalition specifies that Title IX does not require schools to cut men's sports, and suggests it's a myth that Title IX requires quotas.

Going Beyond Athletics

The group has a number of recommendations about other aspects of Title IX, including protecting students from sexual harassment and violence and providing equal educational opportunities for pregnant and parenting teens—the latter of which is one of the lesser-known protections afforded by the 1972 law. Several promote the passage of new federal legislation and action by the Education Department.

To advance the progress that has been made regarding sexual harassment in schools, the organization wants Congress to pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would establish a federal ban on discrimination and harassment in public K-12 schools based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools and districts to develop comprehensive student-conduct policies that include clear prohibitions regarding bullying and harassment.

It also wants the office for civil rights to conduct public education and technical-assistance activities to guide school districts in how they comply with Title IX, especially now, after the agency issued the October 2010 guidance about bullying and harassment and April 2011 guidance documents about sexual harassment and violence.

Regarding pregnant and parenting teens, the report says the OCR should conduct compliance reviews and issue guidance that reminds schools of their obligations to these students—something officials have said they would do this year.

The coalition would also like to see passage of the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act, which would aid enforcement and create a body of data on where—and how—efforts to keep these students in school have succeeded.

For more on Title IX, remember to check back on edweek.org later this week for our full 40th anniversary coverage.

My colleague Nirvi Shah contributed to this post.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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