Does Title IX require equal playing time for girls on a coed team?

“Recently, our local high school merged the boys and girls soccer teams into 1 coed team. High School soccer requires 11 players on the field. Both the boys and girls teams had plenty players: over 20 boys and 14 girls, but the school principle decided that there needed to be 15 this year. When the teams combined, some of the girls quit, leaving them with 9 girls on the coed team. In our first game of the year, no girls started, but a few did manage to play when we were well ahead. The score of our second game of the year was close, so no girls started and 8 of the 9 girls sat the bench the entire game. One “Token” girl did get to play a few minutes during the middle of the game.

I can’t imagine that the meritocracy of title IX was intended for the girls to participate by setting the bench. My question is: Does Title IX have anything about actual playing time? Since roughly 1/3 of the team are girls, does title IX speak towards anything requiring roughly 1/3 of actual playing time going to the minority to allow for equal representation?

My fear is that if the girls don’t get to play in the games, most of remaining 9 girls will quit soccer this year, dooming any chance of the return of the school’s girls soccer team next year.”

Answer:

The decision to create a coed soccer team when there are enough girls to field a girls’ team may very well be a Title IX violation, especially if your high school school offers football! It’s all in the numbers.

Title IX requires the school to offer girls and boys equal opportunities to participate in sports.

A school complies with Title IX in one of three ways: (1) Substantial proportionality: it offers enough sports opportunities so that the percentage of girls and boys playing sports are very close to the percentage of girls and boys enrolled in the school; (2) History of program expansion: it has a history and continuing practice of expanding the opportunities for girls to play sports; or (3) No interest: it has met all of the girls’ interest in playing sports.

Because football is a popular boys’ sport with large rosters and most schools don’t have a girls’ sport with comparably large numbers, most high schools with football programs fail the proportionality test. When a school cuts a viable girls team, like the girl soccer team at your school, it can’t really claim that it has a history and continuing practice of expanding programs since it just cut one. Similarly, the school must really prove that it’s meeting all the girls’ interest in playing sports when girls who want to play soccer and the coed team doesn’t offer the girls a meaningful opportunity to play.

Check out the “What can I do?” section of the website for a step-by-step guide to solving this Title IX issue.