A group of teenage girls have filed a Title IX complaint against three Utah school districts after the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) refused to form a girls’ football team.
In 2012, Sam Gordon, a nine-year old from Utah, became the face of girls’ playing football when a video of her touchdowns went viral. She went on to appear on several television programs, including Conan and Good Morning America.
Three years ago, Gordon and her father, Brent Gordon, founded a youth tackle football league for girls. Their league has already grown from 50 members to 200 members since it was founded.
Now, Sam Gordon is fourteen and about to start high school, so her father approached the UHSAA to see if they would form girls’ football teams. However, they told him that there was not enough community interest, and that he should focus on his own league.
Brent Gordon said, “The suggestion was go ahead and grow your girls league for ten or 15 years and then come back to us. Well, my daughter will be 30 years old by then. It doesn’t help her or any of the other girls who want to play for their school now.” Gordon is a lawyer and so decided to research legal options after UHSAA’s refusal to consider their request. He and his daughter along with several others then filed a Title IX complaint against three Utah school districts.
Title IX mandates that schools ensure an equal number of resources goes to fund sports for both men and women. Title IX does have a contact sports exemption that allows schools to prevent girls from joining boys’ teams or creating teams of their own in contact sports like football. However, high schools across the United States offer girls teams in similar contact sports such as ice hockey.
Two other girls in Utah, high school senior Baylee Simmons and junior Madelyn Calchera, are joining Gordon in her suit against the Utah school districts. One of the main goals of their lawsuit is to demonstrate sufficient interest in creating a girls’ team. Neither Sam nor Brent Gordon are concerned about a lack of interest.
Brent Gordon said: “These schools are trying to use their own discrimination against girls to say there is no interest. We’ve never had a girls’ football team, and we’ve never provided equal participation opportunity. You created the lack of girls playing football by discriminating against them in the first place.”
“For girls who are afraid to play football or don’t feel like it’s the type of things that they should do, I think it’s time for us to be trailblazers and take away the stereotype that girls can’t play football,” Sam said. “They should believe in themselves to do anything they want to do.”
Although Title IX has prompted many educational equity victories for women and girls over the last 45 years, there is still a long way to go. To address gender-based inequities, advocates have been urging Members of Congress to hold Secretary DeVos accountable for upholding Title IX protections and pass the Patsy T Mink Gender Equity in Education Act of 2017, which would allocate greater federal funding to helping schools uphold Title IX.
Sources: New York Times 7/1/2017; Fox Salt Lake City 6/27/2017; Bleacher Report 6/30/2017; Feminist Majority 8/22/2016; Feminist Majority Foundation 6/26/17