In February, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued guidance aimed at helping K-12 schools and colleges and universities determine...
In February, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued guidance aimed at helping K-12 schools and colleges and universities determine whether their athletics programs are compliant with Title IX ‘s requirements for equal athletic opportunities based on sex. Public K-12 schools receive federal funding and are therefore required to comply with Title IX. Colleges and universities that receive federal funding also are subject to Title IX. Failure to comply with Title IX can result in internal complaints, complaints filed with OCR, and litigation. Below are highlights from this OCR guidance and links to the guidance documents.
In its guidance for K-12 schools, OCR lists various questions for schools to consider in assessing whether their athletics programs are compliant with Title IX. The following are selected examples:
• Does your school provide athletic gear of equivalent quality, quantity, suitability, condition, and availability for athletes on boys and girls teams? (For example, uniforms, apparel, sports equipment, general supplies)
• Do boys and girls teams both have a reasonable opportunity to compete before an audience? (For example, Sunday morning games may be less likely to generate attendance and interest than Friday night games. So, scheduling all girls teams’ games for Sunday mornings and all boys teams’ games for Friday nights would likely not provide the girls teams the same opportunity to compete before an audience as the boys teams.)
• Do athletes on girls and boys teams use equivalent modes of transportation when traveling to away games or competitions? (For example, carpool, school bus, charter bus, airplane)
• Do athletes on girls and boys teams have equivalent accommodations when traveling overnight?
• Do boys and girls teams have coaches with equivalent qualifications? (For example, experience coaching, teaching, or playing at the high school, college, amateur, or professional level)
• Do coaches of boys and girls teams receive equivalent compensation? If not, can differences in pay be justified by factors that could be nondiscriminatory?
• Are the training and conditioning facilities for athletes on boys and girls teams of equivalent quality? (For example, type of equipment in each training facility/weight and conditioning room)
• Do members of boys and girls teams have equivalent access to training facilities? (For example, whether certain teams have priority or exclusive use of facilities while others have to share facilities)
• Does your school provide equivalent coverage for boys and girls teams and athletes on its website, social media, or other publicity? Are cheerleaders, pep bands, and drill teams provided equivalently for girls and boys teams?
The above questions are just a handful of the questions and tests provided in the OCR guidance document to help K-12 schools assess Title IX compliance.
In its guidance for colleges and universities, OCR poses many of the same above-referenced questions or ones quite similar. The guidance also poses some additional questions to consider, for example:
• Do men’s and women’s teams have academic tutors with equivalent qualifications?
• Are academic tutors available to athletes on women’s and men’s teams for equivalent amounts of time?
• Is housing provided to athletes on men’s and women’s teams in an equivalent manner? (For example, location, process for arranging housing, housing arrangements during breaks, furniture)
• Are coaches and other personnel given substantially equal opportunities to recruit women and men for athletic teams? (For example, amount of time coaches have to recruit, similar and appropriate geographic range for recruiting)
• Is recruitment for men and women athletes funded in a way that is equivalently adequate to meet the needs of each men’s and women’s athletic program? (For example, funds for outreach, brochures, visiting campuses)
These are just a handful of the questions and tests provided in the OCR guidance for helping colleges and universities assess whether their athletics programs are compliant with Title IX.
The OCR Title IX for Athletics guidance for K-12 schools may be found at the following link: Click Here
The OCR Title IX for Athletics guidance for colleges and universities may be found at the following link: Click Here
As noted above, violations of Title IX may result in internal complaints, complaints filed with OCR, and litigation. New Title IX regulations relating largely to protections against sexual harassment are anticipated to be published in May 2023. For counsel or training regarding any Title IX matters, please contact the law firm.
Author: John Janssen, Attorney and former ISD Title IX Coordinator