New guidance released Friday by the Department of Education makes it easy for schools to escape their responsibility under Title IX to provide equal athletic opportunities for women and men, the National Women’s Law Center has said.
In the past, there were rigorous requirements for schools to demonstrate that they were treating women fairly and did not need to add more sports for them. The new Title IX policy guidance gives schools an easy out by allowing them simply to send email surveys to their female students that ask what additional sports they have the interest in and ability to play. If the responses do not show enough interest or ability, then a school is presumed to be in compliance with Title IX. Schools also can assume that lack of response to the survey means lack of interest in increased sports opportunities.
“How many people open, let alone respond, to e-mail surveys?” said Marcia D. Greenberger, NWLC Co-President. “This is simply an underhanded way to weaken Title IX and make it easy for schools that aren’t interested in providing equal opportunity for women to skirt the law.”
Under the new guidance, the Department of Education will provide schools with this e-mail survey – or “model survey.” The survey is inherently flawed, according to the NWLC, because it presumes a survey alone can accurately measure student interests. The guidance does not require schools to look at other factors they once had to consider, such as coaches’ and administrators’ opinions or women’s participation in sports in surrounding high schools or recreational leagues.
NCAA President Myles Brand also was disappointed with the clarification, in regards to the use of the e-mail survey as a measure of interest in athletics.
“I am disappointed in the way the Department of Education promulgated its clarification of Title IX regulations with regard to determining the interest level of females in athletics. The department issued its clarification without benefit of public discussion and input,” he said.
“The e-mail survey suggested in the clarification will not provide an adequate indicator of interest among young women to participate in college sports, nor does it encourage young women to participate — a failure that will likely stymie the growth of women’s athletics and could reverse the progress made over the last three decades. One need only observe the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship that is underway to understand the effect of encouragement for women to participate, the high level of play at which women compete and the public interest in women’s athletics.”
Despite the fact that females make up half or more of students in high schools and colleges, they still receive only about 41 percent of the sports participation opportunities.
The issuance of this policy guidance is the latest move in a years-long attempt to weaken Title IX, says the NWLC. The Bush Administration’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics in 2002 made several recommendations that would have weakened Title IX, but the Commission pulled back after significant public outcry.
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Parts of this article were contributed by the National Women’s Law Center and the NCAA.