If all you read was the front page headline in this morning's newspaper, "District 2 in violation of Title IX," you might wonder what in the world is going on. "Do they not know they are supposed to treat all students fairly?" Well, yes, we do. Here's my perspective:
The Office of Civil Rights is required to investigate whenever they receive a complaint. Over a year ago, our athletic directors provided them with two notebooks full of information about our programs in District Two. We shared that information with the newspaper. In May of 2011, several people from the Atlanta Office visited us for a couple of days to tour our facilities and interview students, coaches, and administrators to determine if we were meeting the law's requirements in providing equitable opportunity for our girls. On Thursday, we received their report.
It confirmed that the majority of the allegations levied against us were without merit: our facilities including courts, fields and practice fields, locker rooms, etc. were compliant. The number of coaches, their training and their pay was equitable. The uniforms and equipment provided for girls as compared to boys met the law's requirements. Practice times were assigned equally. They noted new tracks and tennis courts. They saw the softball fields and scoreclocks and restrooms, some of which were provided by parents and community. They discussed batting cages and shelters and dugouts. On all those things, the District was found compliant.
What they did find, though, is that we always schedule the girls to play basketball games before the boys, and that is apparently not fair. So we will stagger our home games and give our opponents the opportunity to do the same. While I like the idea of having girls home earlier on cold winter school nights, and am concerned crowd sizes will be affected, we will do as required. The other finding is that we do not have as many girls playing sports in proportion to boys. (They do not count competitive cheering as a sport.) We have agreed to do a survey to see what sports our girls would participate in. The report states it likely will be lacrosse. We have been considering it for a number of years, as at least two of the nine high schools in our county field teams. (We will probably need to build another couple of fields or cover our current football fields with artificial turf to take the increased traffic on the sod and to keep student athletes safe.)
It was sad to me that the article accentuated the negative, even to the point of casting aspersions over Coach Clark's recent move from A.D./coach to teacher/coach. The truth is that we have worked diligently over the years to provide a great educational experience for our boys and girls, including their opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Additionally, while it is not athletics, our students have the chance to be in performance groups such as band, orchestra, chorus, drama, dance and JROTC. We have a ton of clubs and leadership groups. If girls like to run, we will take all who want to participate in track and cross country. We will expand some roster sizes to accommodate more girls.
Are we perfect? No. Will we continue to improve? That has been the goal and practice in our District for decades; we are not stopping now.