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Gender Equity Planning at the High School Level, Part II [High-School Sports Best Practices Alert (Second Quarter 2014)]

Author: Justin P. Sievert, Esquire (Senior Counsel)

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, 20 USC §1681 et. seq., (“Title IX”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal financial assistance. A high school athletic department is considered an integral part of a school’s educational mission. Therefore, athletics programs are covered by Title IX. The regulation implementing Title IX ((34 CFR Part 106)) contains specific provisions relating to athletics opportunities, as well as provides schools with considerable flexibility in achieving compliance with the law. The Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) within the United States Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that athletics programs are operated in a manner that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex. Buckner, which has been retained by universities to conduct Title IX audits, offers a two-part series that outlines how high schools can ensure they are in compliance with Title IX. The first entry in this series summarized the basic requirements of meeting the interests and abilities component of Title IX. The second entry in this series will assist high schools in developing operational checklists to discover potential issues concerning benefits to, and treatment of, high school student-athletes.

In determining whether equal opportunities in athletics are available, Title IX regulations and interpretations specify that numerous factors must be considered (the “laundry list” concerning benefits to, and treatment of, athletes). While identical benefits, opportunities and treatment are not required, high schools must provide equivalent treatment, services and benefits regarding these factors within the framework of providing equal athletics opportunities.

As a result, Buckner recommends high school athletics departments implement an operational checklist that can assist athletics administrators with making decisions that comply with Title IX and gender-equity standards. In order to assist athletics administrators with the development of an operational checklist, a sample checklist for the provision of locker rooms and other facilities and the scheduling of games and practice times is provided below.

Sample Title IX Operational Checklist:

Provision of Locker Rooms and Other Facilities

  1. Are practice and competition times equally desirable for both male and female student-athletes?                                         
  2. Are any teams displaced by the scheduling of one team’s practice/game?
  3. Do certain teams have priority in scheduling a specific facility?                      

Scheduling of Games and Practice Times

  1. Do male and female teams have locker rooms of equivalent quality and size?   
  2. Are any teams displaced from their respective locker room because of scheduling of another event or competition?                                                                                                       
  3. Are the conditions of playing and practice fields and courts for male and female teams equal?                                                                                                                                    
  4. Are practice and competitive facilities maintained equally by the school or dedicated school personnel for male and female teams?                                                   
  5. Are there spectator seating, scoreboards and appropriate ancillary needs at each competitive venue?                                                                                                                                    

Contact Justin P. Sievert (954-941-1844; jsievert@bucknersportslaw.com) for additional recommendations relating to Title IX and gender-equity issues.