Last Tuesday, Nov. 25, the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board of Directors approved a comprehensive audit of the ten high schools in the district to assess their compliance with Title IX, the law that guarantees gender equity in education and athletics. The audit will focus on the availability of equal opportunities for female athletes to participate in competitive sports and on the treatment that female athletes receive in matters including athletic facilities, fields, equipment, uniforms, scheduling, publicity, coaching, and travel.
The Women’s Law Project worked with the school board’s solicitor’s office and school board director Heather Arnet to ensure that the audit took place. The board voted on it in part because of the WLP’s complaints of pervasive and severe gender inequities in Pittsburgh schools’ athletics programs.
A 2001 investigative series by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found that only 33% of high school athletes in southwestern Pennsylvania are girls and that some area schools showed disparities in athletic opportunities for girls as high as 28%. The series also uncovered unequal treatment of female student-athletes in facilities, coaching, operating budgets, and other areas.
“By identifying where the district is shortchanging its female students and taking pre-emptive action to correct any unfairness, Pittsburgh may be avoiding extremely costly and time-consuming litigation or burdensome oversight by the federal Department of Education,” said Susan Frietsche, WLP senior staff attorney. “It’s the smart thing to do, and it’s also the right thing to do. We love our daughters as much as we love our sons. Our daughters deserve to share equally in every advantage.”