School board receives Title IX report

Participation gap eliminated, but more work to do.

The Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education received a Title IX report at its June 12 meeting. The big news was that during the just completed school year, Piedmont High School successfully closed a participation gap measured at 53 more boys competing in sports.

There was a plus-12 difference in 2023-24, meaning that there were 12 more girls competing this year than boys. The count is of roster spots, meaning an athlete who plays three sports counts three times.

“Participation has not been proportional historically,” PUSD Title IX coordinator Stephanie Griffin told the Board. “This year, the gap in participation has been eliminated.”

That prompted a round of applause inside the meeting chambers.

Under pressure from parents, the District undertook a Title IX audit for the 2021-22 school year.

That showed the deficit. A girls beach volleyball team was added the next year, but the deficit only dropped to 44 as an unanticipated surge in boys signing up for track and field came that year.

In 2023-24, the debut of girls flag football ended up closing the gap. A new sport recognized by the California Interscholastic Federation and the North Coast Section, flag football proved extremely popular. Piedmont had enough for a junior varsity team as well as varsity, but the West Alameda County Conference didn’t have enough schools to provide a JV schedule. At the Board meeting, hope was expressed to have multi-level schedules soon.

The numbers were a cause for celebration, but PUSD also came up short in the original audit in how it treats its female athletes. Access to the weight room and other facilities has been a major problem. Uniforms weren’t always replaced on a regular basis. Some girls teams didn’t have overnight trips in their schedules while boys teams did. And some girls teams didn’t have games on the schedule outside of the WACC schedule, while the comparable boys team had a full nonleague slate.

The participation gap wasn’t big enough to trigger a lawsuit as no high school has been punished for a gap less than five percent of the student population – Piedmont High School’s gap was well under four percent. But treatment of athletes could have been a problem. According to the 2021-22 audit, only 30 of 48 measurements were equitable. Fifteen were found to advantage boy athletes and just one in favor of girls.

This year’s audit said 25 of 48 categories were equitable. Twelve of the rest advantaged boys, while 11 advantaged girls.

Categories measured included: competition schedules, equipment, uniforms, locker rooms, practice and game times, coach-athlete ratios, access to trainers and publicity and promotion.

Griffin said goals for the 2024-25 school year include balancing participation further by adding junior varsity flag football for girls and reinstating a junior varsity team for boys volleyball. The task force will also monitor the renovation of Witter Field and the reconstruction of the pool. The former is supposed to be completed over the summer. The latter will take more time.

Other issues to work on are locker room and weight room access, finding a travel opportunity for at least one more girls program, find tournaments for at least two more girls teams and add a concession stand for one girls sport. View the full report HERE.

Overall, board members, task force members happy with results

Former athletic director Bradley Smet was heavily involved in the audit process the past few years. New athletic director Tyler Small will now step into the role. He was in attendance but did not speak at the meeting.

Board president Veronica Anderson Thigpen (at right) said, “Tyler, this is like a present. You have this gift-wrapped on your desk for when you arrive.”

Said Board member Hilary Cooper, “I’m just extremely appreciative of where we are compared to where we started. This work is challenging because you’re reliant on the whims of teenagers – what they say they want to do and what they feel like doing.”

Vice President of the Board Lindsay Thomasson noted that her daughter just finished eighth grade.

“I’ve had a lot of occasion recently to have a whole lot of eighth grade girls in my car and one of the primary topics is what sports they’re going to play,” she said.

Attorney Kim Turner, who worked on the task force, congratulated the District during public comment. She said she wants to use the PUSD experience as a model for other districts that desire to address the issue.

“PHS is doing something that I have not seen at the high school level at practically any district or school,” Turner said. “You’ve been a team, you’ve been transparent, you’ve been persistent and you’ve also been nimble.”

But she also added, “I just want to emphasize that we’re not done yet.”

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