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Calif. District Settles Title IX Complaint Over Middle School Sports Offerings

Last week, the Pasadena Unified (Calif.) School District settled a Title IX complaint with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, the California Women's Law Center (CWLC), and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP by agreeing to expand athletic opportunities for girls.

Vicky Barker, legal director of the CWLC, told Sarah Favot of the Pasadena Star-News that the complaint stemmed from the district's after-school athletic offerings for middle school students. The after-school program, PasadenaLEARN, offered co-ed basketball, flag football, and soccer, which ultimately led to a decrease in girls' participation.

"The impact of selecting those co-ed sports was that very few girls signed up," Barker told the paper. "They were having try-outs and cuts and only the very, very best girls could play."

Schools can demonstrate their compliance with Title IX, which requires that any school that receives federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of gender when it comes to educational or athletic opportunities, in one of three ways. They can ensure that female athletic participation is in proportion to total female enrollment; demonstrate a history of expanding athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex; or prove that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

The district has chosen Door No. 3, agreeing to add girls' basketball and girls' soccer teams at the middle school level. It will also ensure "equal treatment when it comes to publicizing, recruiting, coaching, uniforms, equipment, and facilities," per the Star-News.

"PasadenaLEARNs is advertised as including a 'co-ed' sports league and now comes closer to living up to this promise," said Elizabeth Kristen, a senior staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, in a statement. "In a district where girls make up 48.9 percent of the population, only 10 percent of the LEARNs sports participants were girls at the middle school level. We are heartened to see that Pasadena Unified will now provide real options for middle school girls to participate in athletics."

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

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