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Title IX Refresher: Key Considerations in Gender-Equity Planning [Youth and High School Sports Best Practices Alert (First Quarter 2015)]

Author: Justin P. Sievert (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. The application of Title IX to high school sports programs primarily focuses on two elements:

  • Participation: Institutions are required to provide women and men equitable opportunities to participate in sports. The law, however, does not require institutions to offer identical sport programs for females and males, but an equal opportunity for members of each sex to participate.
  • Benefits and Opportunities: Title IX requires institutions to provide for the equitable treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services; and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.

In light of these requirements, Buckner recommends high school athletics departments develop a gender-equity improvement protocol to ensure their athletics department is in compliance with Title IX regulations. As a result, the following best practices should be considered:

  • Provide regular educational sessions to athletics department staff members, coaches, student-athletes, boosters and staff members who interface with the athletics department, to better understand gender-equity and Title IX.
  • Develop a gender-equity improvement plan to implement every five years. This plan should identify key issues, set measurable goals, outline steps to achieve them, designate institutional staff members responsible for overseeing the steps necessary to achieve these goals and create a timeline for when the goals should be completed.
  • Create a Title IX/Gender-Equity Committee to provide a continuous evaluation of men’s and women’s sport programs and an exploration into any disparities that may exist. In addition to assisting with the development of the gender-equity improvement plan, the Committee should ensure the plan is implemented accordingly and that progress and goals are being monitored.
  • Retain an outside firm to conduct a Title IX audit and gender-equity planning review of your high school athleitcs department on an ongoing basis. [Note: Buckner recommends an audit be conducted at least once every five years.]

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