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Gender quotas could also threaten HS male sports

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Updated: March 11, 2011

By Alan Leet

The College Sports Council is at the forefront in combating what could be a devastating change in the manner in which Title IX is enforced at the high school level.

While both high school and collegiate athletic programs have been subject to Title IX for almost 40 years, high schools generally have been able to avoid the widespread elimination of boys’ teams that has been so tragic at the collegiate level (most recently at Cal-Berkley and University of Delaware).

Why have high school sports been spared? Because up to now high schools have not been threatened by the “proportionality” quota that the Department of Education employs to enforce Title IX at the collegiate level.

If gender quota advocates have their way, this is about to change. If they succeed, the threat of high school wrestling programs being eliminated by thousands of schools is very real!

In October 2010, the National Women’s Law Center filed complaints against twelve school districts across the U.S. alleging that they are discriminating against high school girls based on the fact that a greater percentage of the boys than girls in their high schools participate in interscholastic sports.

Since 1979, colleges have been encouraged to maintain athletic programs that meet an arbitrary gender quota. They can avoid Title IX litigation if the relative percentage of men and women participating in their athletics program is substantially “proportional” to the gender breakdown of their student body.

Readers of WIN Magazine are well aware of the hundreds of collegiate wrestling teams that have been lost due to proportionality. High schools, however, have been able to demonstrate compliance with Title IX without having to meet this gender quota, and as a result have not been forced to eliminate numerous boys’ teams and opportunities.

If high schools are subjected to this quota, the potential elimination of boys’ teams would be massive and unfortunately much more extensive than the painful experience to date at the collegiate level.

The College Sports Council and our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation are leading the charge to stop this effort to extend the controversial gender quota to high school sports.

Last month the Pacific Legal Foundation sent letters to the Department of Education challenging the legal validity of the National Women’s Law Center’s complaints because they wrongly assume that the proportionality test is applicable to high school sports.

In fact, this public-interest law firm asserts that applying the proportionality test to high school sports may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The College Sports Council has reached out to the twelve school districts to inform them of the legal defects in the National Women’s Law Center’s complaints and is urging them to vigorously resist efforts to extend the intercollegiate gender quota to high school sports. We have also alerted the national media of this threat to high school sports.

If high schools are forced to manage the number of girls and boys who participate in sports — rather than allowing kids to play based on their interest in sports, then many (perhaps most) high schools will have little choice but to dramatically reduce interscholastic sports opportunities for boys.

While some schools may be able to add new sports for girls, this is not the case at many schools that already offer a full complement of girls’ sports opportunities or are subject to budget limitations. Given the sports participation rate disparity at most high schools, compliance with the quota will not be possible without major cuts to boys’ programs.

This battle to save high school sports programs is real and at an early stage. We need your help now to win this fight. To stay informed and to help us stop this threat, please join us as a member (it’s free) at www.CollegeSportsCouncil.org and send us a donation.

It is also crucial that you contact your elected representatives in Washington (see www.house.gov and www.senate.gov) and ask them to urge the Obama Administration not to allow the Department of Education to extend the collegiate gender quota to high school athletics.

This dated gender quota sanctions discrimination against boys and is bad policy. Let’s continue to allow kids to play high school sports based on their interest, not based on an arbitrary quota!

(Alan Leet is a board member of the College Sports Council and is active in the campaign to    reinstate intercollegiate wrestling in Georgia.)

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