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Title IX Complaint Filed Against 60 Oregon School Districts

Three years ago, 60 Oregon school districts and nearly 100 high schools were 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, which would constitute a clear violation of Title IX.

OCR dismissed the complaint in October 2011, however. According to Jim Bradshaw of the Dept. of Ed.'s press office, it "did not provide facts in support of the allegations so as to raise a potential violation of the Title IX requirement to equally effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of both sexes."

Per The Oregonian, OCR officials may be having a sense of déjà vu. Similar complaints, updated with more recent data, have been filed once again.

Title IX requires 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 their 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 the underrepresented sex; or proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

The original 2011 complaint highlighted roughly 30 schools that had double-digit percentage-point discrepancies between the number of female athletes and the overall number of female students. For instance, Westview High School in Beaverton, Ore., had 1,290 females and 1,385 males enrolled (roughly a 48-52 split) in 2006, but only 315 female athletes, compared to 495 males (roughly a 39-61 split). According to the original complaint, to provide girls with proportional athletic opportunities, "an additional 76 girls would be able to play sports."

The new complaint includes 2011-12 data for Westview, which still has a school enrollment of roughly 48 percent girls and 52 percent boys, according to The Oregonian. The gender-based participation gap has only widened over the past half-decade, however, as 63 percent of the school's athletes are boys and 37 percent are girls.

"The OCR's own numbers... say something should have happened to guarantee the enforcement of Title IX given what we know," wrote Herb Dempsey, a retired teacher who assisted with the new complaints, in an email to the paper. "Whether we like it or not, OCR is charged with assuring compliance, and the law is clear."

The OCR did not confirm to the paper that it had received the new complaints, but the complainant provided the paper with a confirmation letter from the OCR's Seattle division.

UPDATE, 11:30 p.m. ET: Dempsey sent over some additional info about the new complaints, which used data from the Civil Rights Data Collection.

"OCR is admitting it has thousands of women and girls who, on OCR's own paper, are being denied 'equal access' and OCR does nothing but rewrite their own regulatory steps to quash the complaints before any OCR investigation," Dempsey wrote. "The agency is becoming visible as playing its own insidious role as sexist when they refuse to accept their own CRDC data."

He specifically voiced frustration with OCR's procedure to dismiss complaints. Per the OCR Case Processing Manual, when a complaint "lacks sufficient detail...to infer that discrimination or retaliation may have occurred or is occurring," the office requests additional information from the complainant which must be received within 20 calendar days. 

"Now it receives a complaint based on OCR data that a school is denying equal civil rights to females and OCR instead attacks the complaint letter's conclusion of discrimination by demanding another set of data from the complainant to verify that the offending recipient institution is unable to defend itself by providing the data previously demanded in Part Two or Part Three," Dempsey wrote.

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