PUSD audit finds high school athletic program not in compliance with Title IX

Julie Reichle

A Title IX Celebration Committee is planning a series of events related to the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

In a presentation to the Board of Education on Wednesday night, the school district said a self-audit undertaken this year revealed that, among other shortcomings, girls were underrepresented by 55 player slots in the high school athletic program in 2021-2022, a violation of Title IX, the landmark 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding (i.e., public schools).

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The school board also heard from student athletes who shared their sports experiences about facilities, practice times, equipment, uniforms, and more, saying that the official audit did not fully capture the shortcomings of the athletic program and made recommendations for small changes that they say would improve the student experience.

The report was shared by Title IX district coordinator (and director of instructional technology) Stephanie Griffin and Athletic Director Bradley Smet, who led a task force that was formed this year to assist with the first self-audit of the high school athletic program. The task force was made up of three students, three parents, six district staff, one coach, and two members of the city’s recreation department. The district worked with a consultant, Dr. Donna Lopiano of Sports Management Resources, to assist with the process. The audit examined the whole athletic program in 2021-2022 and reviewed data to determine if girls participated in, and had similar benefits to, male athletes in proportion to enrollment. In a memo to the Board, Griffin said the audit was ongoing and more in-depth review will continue and may change next year with the possible addition of new sport or squad additions.

Griffin said that an interest survey distributed this year to all students in grades 6-12 indicated there may be sufficient interest to offer beach volleyball and field hockey, in addition to possibly offering freshman girls lacrosse in the 2022-23 school year, and/or freshman girls water polo in 2023-2024 as a way to close the gap.

According to the memo, adding additional teams will include ongoing and first year considerations, including new uniforms and equipment and roughly $15,000 in additional cost for coaching stipends. (This year, PUSD and the City of Piedmont have been exploring the feasibility of adding sand volleyball courts in town.)

Title IX’s requirements of Athletics can be divided into three basic categories, according to Griffin:

a. Girls and boys must be given equitable opportunities to participate in school-sponsored athletics. The number and type of sports offered for boys and girls don’t have to be the same but there does need to be an equitable
opportunity to play.

a. Girl and boy student-athletes must receive scholarship dollars proportional to their participation levels in sports. This area does not apply to our high school program as we do not provide scholarships.

Other benefits
a. Girl and boy athletes must receive equitable treatment and benefits being a student-athlete. This includes, but is not limited to, access to quality equipment, game/practice schedules, locker rooms, facilities, medical/training
facilities, marketing, and support services.

“Let’s focus on getting into compliance as soon as possible, but on top of that focusing on things that are going to make a difference in how our female athletes feel they are being treated,” said School Board President Cory Smegal. “There is a price tag. Everyone should recognize what these things will cost. Making teams equitable is going to take some time and effort.”

Griffin and Smet were asked by the Board to return in June with an outline of what to expect next year, including the costs of implementing the task force’s recommendations.

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