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ESEA Amendment Would Require Schools to Report Athletes' Gender

A new version of federal education law could require high schools to publicly report how many boys and girls they have playing sports.

And here you thought this week's Senate ESEA markup hearings didn't have any direct impact on K-12 sports.

But at a markup today, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed an amendment to a proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would require high schools to report a breakdown of athletes and athletic expenditures by gender.

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 13-9 this morning, according to the Women's Sports Foundation, would add the "High School Data Transparency Act" to ESEA, the current version of which is better known as the No Child Left Behind Act. It would require high schools to publicly report data about how many boys and girls are on each sports team and how much the school spends on each team.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits gender-based discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity. Schools can prove their compliance with Title IX in one of three ways: By offering athletic participation opportunities to male and female athletes in proportion to their overall respective enrollments; by showing a history and continuing practice of expanding athletic programs for the underrepresented sex; and by demonstrating that the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex have been fully and effectively accommodated.

While schools don't necessarily have to spend an equal amount of money on boys' and girls' sports teams or have an equal number of male and female athletes, the distribution must be proportional to their overall student population. In short, Title IX prevents schools from doing things like spending 90 percent of their athletic budgets on boys' teams.

This amendment, if eventually signed into law, could help the public keep better track of potential Title IX violations in their local districts.

Since 1994, postsecondary institutions have been required to report gender-specific athletic data due to the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. No such federal law currently exists for K-12 schools; however, the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights did collect and publicize this data from roughly half the school districts in the U.S. for a recent data collection.

According to the National Coalition for Women & Girls in Education, schools are already required to report gender-based sports data to the U.S. Department of Education; it just doesn't need to be publicized. Four states already require states to annually report interscholastic athletic data for male and female students, with Pennsylvania being the latest to pass such a law during the summer of 2012.

The Senate committee passed the full ESEA reauthorization bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on a party-line vote today. It has an "outside chance" of advancing to the full Senate, according to EdWeek ed-politics reporter Alyson Klein, who's been attending the markup hearings this week.

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

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