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My daughter wants to play baseball, but her school says CIF won’t let her play.

“Our daughter is in 8th grade at a private school in Oakland, CA. She plays baseball on her middle school team and in the Oakland Little League, where she has played for about the last 8 years. She would like to continue playing baseball in high school rather than switch to softball, which we consider a different sport. Evidently, there is also legal precedent in other states. She has recently been told by the athletic director of her school that when she enters the high school this coming Fall, she will not be allowed to try out for the baseball team because the school offers softball as an equal sport for girls, and according to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) rules, if the same sport is offered for girls and boys, the girls are not permitted to try out for the boys teams.

My wife and I have the following questions:

1) Are softball and baseball officially considered different sports in California?

2) Are private schools subject to Title IX or California Education Code § 221.5 if they don’t receive any federal or state funding?

3) Why are girls allowed to play baseball in other CIF member high schools that also have softball programs, but it’s not allowed at our daughter’s school?

4) Does the CIF have the authority to prevent girls from trying out for high school baseball regardless of whether softball is offered as a sport?

Thank you for your assistance.”

Answer

The Athletic Director that you spoke with was misinformed. The California Interscholastic Federation (“CIF”), permits girls to try out and play on high school baseball teams throughout California and has done so for many years. We confirmed this with the State CIF office today. Baseball and softball are different sports under CIF rules.

Although private schools that receive no federal funding are exempt from Title IX’s requirements, gender discrimination is not a generally accepted ethos at most private high schools. For example, Miranda McOsker was the starting junior varsity and reserve varsity quarterback for Bishop Montgomery High School, a private Catholic school in Torrance, California, a few years ago and two girls are currently playing for Trinity Prep High School’s baseball team in Napa.

Go back to the Athletic Director with this information and hopefully you will get a positive response. You can also contact the State CIF office directly at 916-239-4477. Let us know what happens. Good luck!

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The girls’ locker room is inadequate compared to the boys’. Does that violate Title IX?

“I am the coach of a girls team at a high school in Michigan. Our girls locker room is inadequate compared with the boys. In addition the girls get kicked out of their locker room when visiting boys football and basketball teams are at the school. The boys are never removed from their locker room to accomodate visiting girls teams. These teams are directed to bathrooms to change in. Is this a violation of title IX.

I know you are in California…..just looking for a way to kick start a complaint!

Thanks for any advice you may be able to provide.”

Answer

Since Title IX is federal law, we are happy to answer questions from Michigan or other states.  It may very well be a violation of Title IX if the girls’ locker rooms at your school are inadequate compared to the boys’.   Title IX requires schools to provide girls’ and boys’ teams facilities that are of equal quality and suitability.  This means that the boys and girls should have access to locker rooms that are of equivalent in size and condition.  If male athletes are provided with lockers that are large enough to accommodate their equipment, then female athletes must be provided with similarly-sized lockers. If the bathrooms and showers are well-maintained in the boys’ locker room, then they must be comparably maintained in the girls’ locker room.

Likewise, other arrangements should be made for visiting boys’ teams so that the girls have access to their own locker room during practices and games.

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

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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.

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.

Does Title IX apply to parks and recreation teams?

No. Title IX is an educational law which applies only to schools that receive federal funding. However, California Government Code § 53080 prohibits gender discrimination in community youth athletic programs and parks and recreation facilities. Like Title IX, this law requires community recreational departments to provide boys’ programs and girls’ programs the same level of services, facilities, and supplies.

I have heard that Title IX requires schools to cut boys’ teams. Is this true?

Definitely not. Title IX does not require schools to cut boys’ teams to comply with its requirement that schools provide girls with opportunities to play sports in proportion to their enrollment in the school. Individual schools may choose to cut boys’ teams, rather than add more girls’ teams, as a means to comply with Title IX. However, this is the decision of individual schools rather than a mandate of Title IX.

A better way to comply with Title IX is to raise additional money to fund additional girls’ teams, to trim the fat from bloated “big sport” budgets such as football or basketball, or to cut funding equally from all boys’ teams rather than eliminating a boys’ sport altogether. The decision to cut teams is school-specific and in no way should be blamed on Title IX.

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.

I am a coach of a girls’ high school basketball team that is being discriminated against by the high school in violation of Title IX. Is it legal for the school district to fire me for filing a Title IX complaint?

No. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal for a school district to retaliate against any person for complaining about sex discrimination in violation of Title IX.

Coaches and teachers are often the best advocates for the rights of their students because they frequently are in the best position to identify discrimination and bring it to the attention of administrators.

Disclaimer

Ask a Lawyer is designed to help students, coaches, parents and educators understand girls’ rights under Title IX to equal athletic opportunities and benefits in high school athletic programs. Ask a Lawyer is intended to provide general information and is not intended, nor should it be relied upon, as legal advice. If you are interested in getting help with a particular legal problem involving Title IX and girls’ athletics, contact the California Women’s Law Center at (323) 951-1041 or justplaynow@cwlc.org