Chicago Public Schools and the Office for Civil Rights reached an agreement late last week to provide equal athletic opportunity for boys and girls.
The agreement follows a Title IX complaint that the schools were out of compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in all federally funded education.
The National Women’s Law Center filed this complaint in 2010 with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), alleging that the Chicago district did not equally accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of both girls and boys, and maintained that girls did not have equal opportunities to participate in athletics. A subsequent OCR investigation showed significant disparities in opportunities to play sports in the district’s 98 high schools. The OCR estimated that 6,200 additional spots on teams are needed to level the playing field for female students.
The agreement for resolving the OCR complaint is based on a three-part test of compliance. If the schools cannot show they provide equal opportunities for girls and boys using any part of the test, they need to make the necessary adjustments, possibly adding new athletic teams or new levels to existing teams. Additionally, the district hired a Title IX Sports Compliance Coordinator to work with the Office for Civil Rights to ensure implementation of these corrective measures.
“It’s time to level the playing field and give girls the athletic opportunities they deserve,” said Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment for the National Women’s Law Center. “The Center’s findings and OCR’s investigation underscore the urgency of treating girls fairly and putting these schools on the path toward compliance with Title IX.”
Research clearly shows that athletics have a positive effect on youth, especially girls. Girls who play sports are less likely to become pregnant as teens, experience depression or eating disorders, and be diagnosed with some major illnesses such as breast cancer. Similarly, girls who play sports in school are more likely to develop positive relationships with their bodies, experience higher self-esteem, and perform better in school.
Media Resources: National Women’s Law Center Press Release 7/10/15; NWLC Complaint 2010; OCR Letter 7/9/15; Women’s Sports Foundation; Feminist.org Education Equity page;