Tag Archives: Sports

ALERT: ATHLETIC EQUITY REPORTING LAW UNDER ATTACK IN HARRISBURG!

Just last week, the first annual athletic gender equity reports were due from public secondary schools under a new state law that passed on June 30, 2012.  The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act (or Act 82 Article XVI-C) requires secondary schools to provide annual, publicly released reports containing information about school-sponsored athletic programs in order to improve schools’ compliance with Title IX and work towards achieving gender equality.

Sadly, efforts are currently underway in the state legislature to interfere with this law before the first reports are even publicly released.  On Tuesday, October 22, House Bill 1734 will be considered by the House Education Committee.  House Bill 1734 would repeal several crucial provisions of this important disclosure law.

  • HB 1734 would eliminate the requirement that schools report the      total value of booster club purchases for each team. (Significantly, this portion of the reporting law does not even take effect until next year.)  Some schools blame the inequality of their athletic programs on booster clubs, but in fact, schools are responsible for ensuring that boys and      girls have equal opportunities and experiences. HB 1734 would allow schools to remove from their annual reporting the privately raised money being poured into boys’ teams.
  • HB 1734 would repeal the requirement that, for the first year only, schools include the dates when each team was established. This      easily available information shows whether schools have a history and continuing practice of expanding the girls’ athletic program.
  • HB 1734 would sunset all reporting after just three years.

Passing HB 1734 virtually guarantees that parents and students will have to turn to other, more burdensome ways of learning about their schools’ compliance with state and federal gender equity laws.

The participation gap between boys and girls in interscholastic athletics is widening.  See Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports, Sharp Center & Women’s Sports Foundation, Oct. 2012.  Now is the wrong time to retreat from the mandate of equal opportunity and fair treatment for our girls.

What you can do:

  • Contact your state rep and urge him or her to vote NO on HB 1734 and stand up for gender equality.
  • Visit your local public high school’s website and see what its Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure report has to say.
  • Can’t find a report from your school? Contact your school’s Title IX officer and ask where you can get a copy of the report.
  • Can’t find your school’s Title IX officer? Call your school’s superintendent and ask who the Title IX officer is and how you can get a copy of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure report.
  • Not getting the information you are entitled to? Call the Women’s Law Project: 412-281-2892 or 215-928-9801.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Gender Discrimination, Girls, PA Law, PA Legislature, Pennsylvania, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX, Women's Law Project

Title IX Advocates Await Release of New Athletic Gender Equity Reports

Attorneys from the Women’s Law Project announced that the first annual athletic gender equity reports from public high schools, junior highs and middle schools are due today under a new state law that passed on June 30, 2012. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, formally known as Act 82 Article XVI-C, requires secondary schools to publicly report basic information about school-sponsored athletics programs on an annual basis in order to improve schools’ compliance with Title IX and achieve gender equity.

“For more than 40 years, Title IX has required schools to treat girls equally,” said Terry Fromson, managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project. “Sadly, there is evidence that girls are still being excluded and shortchanged and have actually lost ground in recent years.”

Fromson explained that starting today and each year thereafter, Pennsylvania secondary schools (grades 7 through 12) will have to submit a form to the state Department of Education containing the following information, which must be publicly posted by November 1:

  • Number of students in each school by gender;
  • Listing by gender of each varsity, junior varsity and freshman athletic team, together with year when each team was established;
  • Number of team participants by gender;
  • The seasons during which each team competed;
  • Total value of contributions and purchases made on behalf of each team by booster clubs;
  • Expenditures for each team, including travel, uniforms, equipment and supplies, coach compensation, facilities, and athletic trainers;
  • Number of coaches and trainers per team;
  • Number of competitions per team;
  • Name of school’s Title IX officer.

To find and download the forms online, go to:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/school%20services%20office/9153/disclosure%20of%20interscholastic%20athletic%20opportunities/1419362

The state legislation is modeled after the federal Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which requires federally funded colleges and universities to publicly disclose similar information annually on an easily searchable website.

“The Women’s Law Project intends to look carefully at the new gender equity reports to ensure that parents and students know how their schools are treating them,” said Susan Frietsche, staff attorney in the Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Girls, PA Law, Sports, Title IX

Major League Baseball Includes Sexual Orientation in its Anti-Discrimination Policy

By Molly Duerig, WLP Intern

It’s no mystery why the Major League Baseball Players Association has announced a new component to its anti-discrimination policy that specifically denounces discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Many professional athletes are openly supportive of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

This Huffington Post article lists 28 such athletes, including Hudson Taylor, a three-time all-American wrestler from the University of Maryland who in January 2011 started Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization focused on uniting athletes who pledge to respect one another, regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation.

As of now, no Major League Baseball (MLB) player is an Athlete Ally Pro Ambassador – someone who has pledged to promote the organization’s mission to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. Currently, Pro Allies range from NFL players and North American Soccer League members to collegiate lacrosse coaches and players.

Perhaps the MLB’s new policy will motivate players to join ranks with Athlete Ally, as well. Clearly, momentum is rising for equality in the professional sports world.

The MLB’s progress is in keeping with a growing trend of advocacy for gay rights in the professional sports world. In late February, the National Football League’s anti-discrimination policy was questioned, when Colorado tight end Nick Kasa revealed he’d been asked about his sexual orientation during his interview.

Kasa told ESPN Radio Denver that at the NFL Scouting Combine, he was asked questions such as “Are you married?” and “Do you like girls?” by an NFL team.

Later, the NFL investigated these claims made by Kasa, ones that were echoed by other draft-eligible prospects. The NFL took no official action, but reminded interviewers not to consider sexual orientation as a factor in hiring. It also cited the questions asked of Kasa as inappropriate for interviews.

Although many athletes identify as LGBT, relatively few professional athletes have come out as openly gay. LGBT rights organizations have blamed the policies and attitudes in sports that encourage athletes to cover up their true sexual orientations. The discriminatory questions asked of NFL players are, unfortunately, just one example.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, “both on the field and away from it.”

“We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins,” Selig said.

Last October, all 30 MLB teams “went purple” for Spirit Day on the 17th, showcasing their support and respect for the LGBT community.

The organization seems to be moving in a positive direction toward acceptance and support of LGBT folk.

Last August, the NBA became the first major sports league to receive sensitivity training from Athlete Ally, which has offered to train all major league sports teams on preventing bullying and promoting inclusion.

Hopefully, the MLB will also take Athlete Ally up on its offer now that it has officially spoken out against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The organization has nothing to lose – and everything to gain – for openly promoting inclusion and acceptance of all different kinds of players.

After all, true teamwork requires that kind of acceptance. Now we just look forward to the day when the MLB welcomes women baseball players onto its rosters.

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Filed under Gender Discrimination, LGBT, Sex Discrimination, Sexual harassment, Sexual orientation

Study Affirms Positive Effects of Athletic Participation for Girls & Young Women & the Need for Greater Equity

By Kaitlin Leskovac, WLP Summer Intern

A recent study conducted by Ernst and Young explores the correlation between women who hold executive positions at various companies and their previous athletic participation. Ernst and Young surveyed 821 senior managers and executives, of whom 40% were female. Of these female senior managers and executives, roughly 90 percent of them had previously played sports at some level. The report cautions, “correlation here doesn’t immediately imply causality,” however, “it is clear that sport can play a positive role in developing the leadership skills of female executives” and “that a sports-oriented background can be a useful tool for those women seeking to climb to the top.” These conclusions reinforce the positive effects of continued and increased participation in athletics by girls and young women.

As we strive for greater parity for women in executive and other leadership positions, it is important for girls and young women to have the opportunities, resources and environmental considerations encouraging them to participate in athletics. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania and nationwide, this is not always the case. Despite manifest evidence of the benefits of playing sports, studies in Pennsylvania show that girls between the ages of 6 and 17 consistently engage in less physical activity than boys.

WLP’s reporting on sex bias in school athletics finds that the principal deterrent of female athletic participation is gender norms, that is, social attitudes about femininity and expectations about how girls should behave. These findings echo Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s observations of the tendency to refer to young girls as bossy, instead of encouraging the development of leadership skills. Widely held social norms about appropriate feminine behavior for girls not only discourage athletic participation, but may influence the development of leadership skills and in turn, may affect how girls eventually fare on the ladder for executive positions in the corporate world and other sectors of society.

In addition to influential social norms, there are concrete disparities in resources and opportunities in athletic programming in schools, at the secondary and collegiate levels. Today, women compose over 50 percent of the undergraduate population at universities nationwide, but only have roughly 43 percent of athletic opportunities available to them on campuses. WLP’s report on sex bias in school athletics finds that female college athletes receive far less than male athletes in scholarship and recruiting money, and often have inferior facilities relative to male athletes. WLP’s report demonstrates that Pennsylvania high schools similarly fail to provide equal opportunity to female students. For example, in the 2010-2011 school year, PA schools provided 170,630 athletic opportunities to boys while providing only 146,057 opportunities to girls.

The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in all sectors of society stems from pervasive sex bias and unequal treatment. To move forward, it is essential that girls have equal opportunity to develop leadership skills. Ernst and Young’s study notes growing reliance by companies and organizations on team-based approaches to address complex issues, underscoring the increasing value in the workplace of prior team experience. The important correlation between prior athletic participation and women holding executive positions should not be overlooked, and should inform school policies that provide for equal opportunity for female participation in athletic activities.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Education, Gender Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX, Women Leaders, Women's Law Project, working women

Title IX requirements not burdensome

By Terry L. Fromson, WLP Managing Attorney

On June 19, 2013, the Northwestern Lehigh School District Board of Directors adopted a resolution that would keep basic information from parents and students about the sports programs their tax dollars support.

The resolution also revealed shocking ignorance about Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including in school athletic programs.  Resolving to support the repeal of a law adopted last year by the Pennsylvania Legislature that requires public high schools, junior highs, and middle schools to fill out a reporting form once a year showing how schools are doing in achieving gender equity in their athletic programs, the Board resolution incredulously states that “the provisions of Title IX, which is federal law, are not applicable to local school districts.”

To the contrary, Title IX applies to any educational program that receives any federal financial assistance.  There are few, if any, schools that don’t receive any federal funding.  Title IX requires our schools to provide equal athletic opportunities and treatment to girls. Adopted 41 years ago this month, Title IX required schools to become compliant within three years.  Yet, many schools have not only failed to achieve equality in their sports programs, but overall, conditions have actually worsened for girls.

Last year’s passage of the reporting law was a victory for girls who want to participate in school athletics in Pennsylvania and for their parents who expect equal opportunity for their daughters in school. It simply provides the taxpaying public with knowledge about whether their local schools are in compliance with or in violation of Title IX.   The law is not burdensome.  The information it asks schools to share is in their possession and is already reportable on a request by request basis under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.  Compiling one report each year, a task estimated to take no more than six hours, will consume less time and effort than responding to multiple requests throughout the year.  This small investment of time is more than reasonable to ensure female athletes in Pennsylvania’s schools are provided with the athletic opportunities required by law.

At this same meeting, the Northwestern Lehigh School Board voted to “move forward” with plans to seek private funding for improvements to the athletic stadium and track field at a projected cost of $2.1 million. Without more information, it cannot definitively be said whether these improvements will result in or contribute to an uneven playing field for girls in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  However, the Board should know that female student athletes must be treated equally even if private funding is used to purchase extra perks for male student athletes.

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Please also see recent commentary by Paul Carpenter of The Morning Call:  Title IX spotlights scholastic sports — for all students or just the Al Bundy types?

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Education, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX

Ms. Magazine Reports on the Women’s Law Project and Charlotte Murphy

Molly Duerig, WLP Intern

It’s been forty years since the passage of Title IX, a crucial piece of legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs.  Although we’ve come a long way, cases continue to pop up that prove we still have a good deal of work to do before we obtain gender equity.

Last month, Ms. Magazine featured a story about eleven-year-old Charlotte Murphy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte was distraught last year when her public elementary school disbanded the girls’ basketball team for a season due to lack of funding.  Then she learned that the boys’ basketball team would continue to operate as normal that season.

Charlotte was upset about the school’s decision.  However, unlike most people, she chose to speak up and call attention to the school district’s mistake.  She wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Dr. Linda Lane, explaining that her school violated Title IX and asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.  Senior Staff Attorney Susan Frietsche of the WLP Pittsburgh office prepared Charlotte for the meeting.  Charlotte’s tenacity and her collaboration with the WLP resulted in a new policy that permits elementary schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District to sponsor a boys’ basketball team only if they also sponsor one for girls. The policy also requires equal treatment for both teams.

Charlotte won her battle and is once again able to play basketball at her school.  This year, there were girls’ basketball teams at 14 elementary schools, up from 3 in previous years.  While Charlotte and her team didn’t win, she was grateful to be given the chance to play just like her male peers.  As Erin Buzuvis, Western New England University law professor and Title IX expert, explained,

If the last 40 years are any indication, Title IX’s success is due to the eternal vigilance of the law’s supporters, who continue to defend it through the political process and in the courts. This vigilance must continue in order for the law to address persistent sex discrimination, and to guard against unwarranted sex segregation.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, WLP looks forward to future successes for gender equity.  We congratulate Charlotte Murphy for her spirited advocacy!

Visit our website to see a video of Charlotte discussing why she chose to speak up and why she thinks Title IX is so important.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Pittsburgh, Title IX

Victory for Women’s Athletic Equity: PA High School Disclosure Bill Passes

During the closing hours of last week’s state budget frenzy, 40 years after the enactment of Title IX, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed its own landmark legislation to advance gender equality in educational opportunities. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Bill passed the state House of Representatives on June 30 as part of an omnibus school code bill (HB 1901) which the Governor has approved. This provision, strongly supported by the Women’s Law Project and many other advocates for women’s equality, including the Women & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, will require all public high schools, middle schools, and junior high schools in Pennsylvania to report annually the number of athletic opportunities they provide to girls and boys, broken down further by race/ethnicity, as well as other data that may reflect the quality of the athletic programming offered. Pennsylvania will join Kentucky, Georgia, and New Mexico in requiring secondary schools to disclose basic information that will help inform students, parents, and community members of whether their schools may be in violation of Title IX.

Since Title IX was enacted in 1972, the number of girls participating in interscholastic high school athletics has increased significantly. However, a large gap remains between the number of high school girls and the number of high school boys playing competitive sports. In recent years, this gap has widened. There are now approximately 1.3 million more boys than girls participating in high school sports. This imbalance is greatest in urban schools, where 73% of the boys but only 45% of the girls in grades 3-12 are involved in athletics, a disparity that affects girls of color most significantly. And even where girls have the opportunity to play, in many districts, they receive inferior equipment, uniforms, fields, facilities, coaching, publicity, scheduling, and transportation compared to the boys.

Currently, female students who suspect that their school’s athletic program is treating  them unfairly must either confront school officials before they have all the facts, or file a Right-To-Know request, which can sometimes lead to administrative battles and time-consuming appeals. Beginning in 2013, Pennsylvanians will only have to visit the Department of Education’s website to obtain the basic information that is key to grassroots reform efforts.

At stake is far more than just the fun and friendship that team sports create. Participation in organized sports improves leadership skills, opens doors for college scholarships, and correlates with better grades, a better chance of graduating and getting a job, and lower rates of depression, drug and alcohol use, smoking, teen pregnancy, and obesity. In fact, over 80% of female executives report that they played a team sport in their youth.

For more information on athletic inequalities in Pennsylvania, see WLP’s publication:  Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012);  2009-2010 Title IX Audit of the Pittsburgh Public Schools ;  Are Schools Giving Female Athletes a Sporting Chance? A Guide to Gender Equity in Athletics in Pennsylvania Schools (2009); and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? (2005)

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Filed under Athletic Equity, PA Legislature, Title IX