School

I think my school is in violation of Title IX. What do I do now?

The first step would be to alert your school that it is in violation – many schools do not know the law and what Title IX requires of them. Your school may be willing to make voluntary changes. Each school is required by law to have a Title IX coordinator. Find out who that person is and tell her about the Title IX problem. If your school is a high school or junior high school, you should notify the principal and the athletic director, and the coaches as well. You may also want to notify the school board.

Put your complaint in writing and be sure to keep a copy of your complaint. Students can voice their concerns by writing letters to school officials and school board members. Parents may also advocate for their children, and coaches for their athletes. Anyone can make a Title IX complaint!

In addition, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for enforcing Title IX. You can file a complaint with the OCR regarding your school. The OCR has twelve regional enforcement offices, with one located in San Francisco. The OCR website is www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr.

If you have legal questions regarding your school and Title IX, or if you have been unsuccessful in resolving your claim yourself, you can contact the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) at (323) 951-1041 or email us.

My school is a private school that does not receive any type of federal funding. Does this mean I have no recourse under Title IX?

If it is true that your school receives no federal funding, Title IX does not apply to your school. Be aware that almost all private colleges receive federal funding through financial aid programs. Private high schools or junior high schools may receive some benefit from federal tax dollars (e.g., federal lunch programs), which could subject them to Title IX.

Even if your school truly receives no federal funding, there are separate California laws which mirror Title IX but apply to schools that receive state funding. California Education Code § 221.5 and California Education Code § 66271.7 prohibit gender discrimination in schools. The requirements are almost identical to Title IX’s requirements, so this manual will still be useful in helping you determine whether your school is in compliance with California law.

There is a female club field hockey team at our school with enough female players to field a varsity team. The club has asked to be given varsity status, but the school claims there is not enough funding. Is this legal under Title IX?

If your school provides boys with a greater number of slots on athletic teams than their proportion of the school population, then refusing to add another girls’ team is most likely a violation of Title IX. Lack of funding is never a valid justification for discrimination under Title IX. If there is a club team that has enough members to field a varsity team, has teams at other schools in the region to play, and has asked to be awarded varsity status, then the school is not currently meeting female athletic interest and ability and is probably violating Title IX.

A Story of Two School Districts

When girls, parents, or even coaches complain that girls are getting the short end of the stick compared to boys when it comes to sports, it never ceases to amaze us that schools ignore the problem. By burying their heads in the sand, schools are in essence telling the girls that boys are just more important than they are. But, schools need to address the problem so that their athletic programs comply with the law.

At Castle Park High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista California, the school chose to ignore complaints from girls and parents that the boys’ baseball team was being provided with better facilities and support than the girls’ softball team. Even after we contacted them, the school continued to provide the girls with an inferior sports program as compared to the boys. So, CWLC and the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center filed a Title IX class-action lawsuit to force the school to provide the girls with a sports program as good as the boys. That case was filed in 2008 and will go to trial in September.

But not all cases have to go like that.

After parents were unable to resolve the issues on their own, we wrote a letter to the Torrance Unified High School District about the unfair treatment of the girls’ softball team compared to the boys’ baseball team at West High School. After receiving our letter, the school and the district decided to work with us to fix the problem, and by the next softball season the girls program was improved, the facilities were brought up to snuff and the matter was resolved.