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S.C. School District Facing Federal Title IX Investigation

The Union County School District in Columbia, S.C., is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights due to potential violations of Title IX, the Associated Press reported today.

Title IX prohibits gender-based discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity. The district is accused of violating it by treating a female student who had been dismissed from her cheerleading squad differently than male students would be in a similar situation.

A letter sent by the OCR to district Superintendent Kristi Woodall on April 19 also notes that the complaint alleges inequitable distribution of funding and medical and strength training between female and male athletic teams, according to the AP.

"While we are confident that there has been no discrimination in the athletic opportunities provided to our female students, we welcome any feedback and suggestions the office of civil rights offers regarding improvements or changes needed," Woodall said in a statement to the AP.

The district has until Monday to send information to the OCR to prove the Title IX claims false, the AP reports.

Having not seen the actual complaint, I can't verify whether the district was counting cheerleading as a sport for Title IX purposes. For what it's worth, a federal appeals court ruled last summer that colleges aren't allowed to count competitive cheerleading as a sport for the purposes of Title IX, a decision called "broadly applicable" by Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center.

That ruling came in regards to the Title IX class action lawsuit Biediger, et al v. Quinnipiac University. Just last week, a settlement to that lawsuit was announced, according to the NWLC, as Quinnipiac agreed to retain all of its women's teams and provide more athletic opportunities to female athletes.

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