WLP on Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Title IX Audit

The Pittsburgh public school system is currently undergoing a Title IX audit to determine if its schools offer an equally fulfilling athletic life to the city’s girls as they do to its boys. Women’s Law Project Program Assistant Christina Cann has an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which she explains why this audit is important, and describes the measures that must be taken for the audit to be truly effective. She writes:

Title IX, the federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs and activities, has been responsible for an explosion in athletic opportunities for female students over the past three decades. Nevertheless, it appears that female students, particularly in our area, still have fewer opportunities to play sports than their male counterparts and that girls who do participate get inferior equipment, uniforms, fields, facilities, coaching, publicity and scheduling at many schools.

It’s commendable that the Pittsburgh school district is looking at its gender-equity performance and taking the initiative to ensure that girls are treated fairly in its athletic programs. The district understands this is about more than just having fun: On the whole, girls who play sports do better academically; graduate at higher rates; have fewer problems with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders and unintended pregnancy; and have greater self-esteem than non-athletes.

Cann notes that in order for the auditor to understand whether or not Pittsburgh Public Schools are truly adhering to Title IX, she should, in addition to examining records and distributing questionnaires, gather information from student-athletes and their parents, and ensure that “any student who speaks out about discrimination will not suffer retaliation of any kind.” Cann also makes clear that Title IX makes it possible for girls to have a more meaningful experience in sports all around. This means that equal roster numbers are not sufficient if other aspects of the female athlete’s experience are lacking. The WLP looks forward to the findings of the audit, which will be released this summer, and to the necessary changes within Pittsburgh public schools’ athletic programs which are sure to follow.

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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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