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College Sports Council Urges High Schools to Fight Use of Gender Quotas to Comply with Title IX in Athletics

Application of law's three-part test is unconstitutional and could potentially sideline 1.3 million male athletes

Contact: Eric McErlain

February 8, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 8, 2011 - The College Sports Council (CSC) is urging public schools nationwide to resist pressure from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) to enforce gender quotas in high school athletics. The CSC, along with two allied organizations, says that applying the same standard used in intercollegiate athletics for Title IX compliance to high schools is unconstitutional and could result in sidelining as many as 1.3 million male athletes.

"[W]e believe the application of the three-part test to scholastic sports will unnecessarily compel you to reduce participation opportunities for boys in your school district in a manner that could violate constitutional rights of your students," wrote CSC Chairman Eric Pearson in a letter to 12 school districts. "We urge you to vigorously contest this effort in order to avoid what would be devastating consequences for your schools and your student athletes and potential legal consequences for your district," said the letter.

Nationwide, there are currently 1.3 million more boys participating in high school sports than girls. Using a gender quota to enforce Title IX in high school sports would put those young athletes at risk of losing their opportunity to play.

The CSC communication was prompted by a legal opinion letter sent today by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) to 12 regional offices of the Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights (OCR). In that letter, the PLF wrote that the traditional three-part test that colleges and universities use to comply with Title IX does not apply to the nations high schools, and that schools have far more leeway to prove that they are offering equal opportunities to both boys and girls athletes than their collegiate counterparts.

"The three-part test, and its encouragement of quotas, has no relevance to high schools or high-school sports," said PLF attorney Joshua Thompson. "No federal regulation or interpretation has ever said that high schools must abide by the three-part test and the sex-based quota system it fosters," Thompson said.

"Given all the problems with proportionality at the collegiate level, it seems imprudent to expand the same method of enforcement to the high school level," wrote Carrie Lukas, Executive Director of the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) in a letter to U.S. Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "If the OCR yields to pressure from the National Women's Law Center and permits the use of gender quotas in high school sports, it will be another example of government overreach that intrudes on the basic constitutional rights of American citizens," Lukas said. 

"Besides the significant constitutional questions and likely legal challenges, the problem with forcing a gender quota on high school athletics is that if schools cannot increase their numbers of female athletes, administrators will have no choice but to cut boys' teams and cap their rosters in order to make their gender ratios 50% female to 50% male," said Pearson.

The impact of Title IX on high school sports has been on the front burner of the national education agenda since last November, when the NWLC filed complaints with OCR alleging discrimination against female athletes in 12 different school districts based solely on the gender balance in their sports programs.

The CSC's letter to each school district may be found at its website. It was sent to the following school districts that were subject to NWLC complaints with OCR: Chicago Public Schools (IL), Clark County School District (NV), Columbus City Schools (OH), Deer Valley Unified School District (AZ), Henry County Schools (GA), Houston Independent School District (TX), Irvine Unified School District (CA), New York City Department of Education (NY), Oldham County Schools (KY), Sioux Falls School District (SD), Wake County Public School System (NC), and Worcester Public Schools (MA). The text of the letters from the PLF and IWF may be found at their respective websites.

The College Sports Council is a national coalition of coaches, parents, athletes and alumni. It is the nation's leading voice advocating reform of Title IX enforcement. Follow us on our blog, our Twitter feed or Facebook.

Additional Background:

Boys high school athletic opportunities at risk because of proportionality.

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