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N.Y.C. Public Schools in Violation of Title IX, Feds Find

The U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights has found New York City public schools to be in violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity, the National Women's Law Center announced Tuesday.

The NWLC filed a complaint against the N.Y.C. school district—along with 11 other school districts—back in 2010, alleging the district had a significant gap between the percentage of student-athletes who were female and the percentage of overall students who were female. At the time, NWLC co-president Marcia Greenberger called the 12 districts "the tip of the iceberg," noting that nationwide, "only 41 percent of all high school athletes are girls, even though they make up half the student population."

To be in compliance with Title IX, schools and districts must satisfy at least one of three conditions:

  • They must offer athletic participation opportunities to male and female athletes in proportion to their overall respective enrollments;
  • They must show a history and continuing practice of expanding athletic programs for the underrepresented sex; or
  • They must demonstrate that the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex have been fully and effectively accommodated.

According to The New York Times, the NWLC found that the gender gap in the 1-million student district averaged 7.9 percentage points in 2006, which was the latest participation data available at the time.

The district attempted to claim that it satisfied the second prong—having a history of expanding athletic programs for female students—but the office for civil rights disagreed, per the NWLC, noting the district cut girls' athletic opportunities over recent years and didn't have a process in which students could request the addition of sports. Additionally, OCR found the district hadn't met girls' interest in volleyball, softball, soccer, tennis, cross-country, bowling, golf, and swimming, according to the NWLC, and determined the district would need to add 3,862 opportunities for female student-athletes to be in compliance with Title IX.

"OCR's investigation confirms NWLC's findings that the New York City district's own data demonstrate widespread disparities in athletic opportunities between girls and boys and underscores the importance that the schools comply with Title IX," Greenberger said in a statement. "It is long past time for schools to give girls what they need, deserve and are entitled to under the law."

Under the district's agreement with OCR, it must survey female students between grades 8 and 12 to determine their interest in particular sports, along with developing a process for students to request the addition of sports. Based on those findings, which the district must submit to OCR by the fall of 2015, it must continually add athletic opportunities for female students in the coming years, along with providing Title IX training to all athletic directors.

This agreement only applies to the N.Y.C. school district, not all 12 the NWLC filed a complaint about back in 2010. OCR had previously resolved the complaints about some of the other districts, including the Wake County (N.C.) public school system, the Houston Independent (Texas) school district, the Columbus (Ohio) City schools, and the Deer Valley Unified (Ariz.) school district. 

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