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Indianapolis Public Schools Reach Title IX Agreement With Feds

The Indianapolis public school system announced an agreement Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights to begin providing equal athletic opportunities for high school girls under the terms of Title IX.

After conducting an investigation into the district, the OCR determined that it was in violation of Title IX, the federal legislation that prohibits gender-based discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity.

Districts can prove their compliance with Title IX in one of three ways:

  • Ensuring that the percentage of boys and girls participating in athletics is proportionate to the overall percentage of male and female students;
  • Demonstrating a commitment to expanding athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex; or
  • Proving that the athletic interests of the underrepresented sex are being accommodated.

The Indianapolis district fell short in multiple ways when it came to providing equal athletic opportunities to females, according to the OCR's investigation.

In total, the district's seven high schools that offer athletics had 5,538 students enrolled, with 2,744 boys (49.5 percent) and 2,794 girls (50.5 percent). Of the 1,466 students who participated in athletics, 945 were boys (64.5 percent) and 521 were girls (35.5 percent). Thus, the district fell 15 percentage points short of meeting the first prong—proportional representation based upon overall student enrollment—and would need to add roughly 445 additional athletic opportunities for females to fall into compliance.

One of the district's high schools, Marshall High School, was found to accommodate the athletic interests of both sexes in terms of proportional enrollment, but the other six failed to do so. Of those six, none satisfied the second prong of the three-part test—a history of expanding athletic opportunities to the underrepresented sex—as none "had a plan for program expansion" for female student-athletes.

When it came to the final prong of the three-part test—proving that the interests of the underrepresented sex are being met—all six schools that failed the first and second prongs also failed here. The OCR found potential interest in at least one sport among students of all six schools, and none of the six had "conducted any recent survey of students' interest in sports not being offered at the school."

Since six of the seven schools failed to comply with any prong of the three-part test, the OCR determined the district to be in violation of Title IX. Additionally, some of the district's high schools failed to provide equal access to practice and competitive facilities, locker rooms, equipment and supplies, and scheduling of games and practice times. (On the bright side, the OCR found no evidence that any of the seven high schools failed to provide equal access to medical and training facilities.)

The district thus reached an agreement with the civil rights office to provide equal athletic opportunities for both male and female high school students. To do so, each of the district's seven high schools must conduct a survey during this school year to assess students' unmet interests in particular sports. The district must also submit a full list of participating student-athletes at all seven high schools by May 1, 2014, May 1, 2015, and May 3, 2016.

"This resolution agreement embodies the fundamental Title IX principles that school districts must provide girls and boys with both equal opportunity to participate and equal benefits and opportunities as participants in interscholastic athletics programs," said Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of civil rights, in a statement. "Girls in schools across the country deserve to expect that their schools will support their desire to compete at a high level in a fair and competitive environment."

The agreement mirrors those established with the District of Columbia public schools and the Portland, Maine, school district over the past year.

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