Background
In 1972, the United States Congress finally recognized the importance of ensuring gender equity in educational institutions receiving federal aid by passing Title IX legislation. Title IX states, "No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Since its passage over a quarter of a century ago, Title IX has led to greater opportunities for girls and women to play sports, receive scholarships, and obtain the benefits of participating in athletics. The number of female college athletes is now four times the pre-Title IX rate. The number of high school girls playing competitive sports has ballooned from 300,000 before Title IX to 2.65 million in 1999.

We've come a long way, but there is still more to do. Although over half of all college undergraduates are women, male athletes far outnumber female athletes in college, with 232,000 men, and only 163,000 women. In Division I colleges, male athletes receive twice as much of total athletic budgets as female athletes (67% to 33%).

Gender equity problems at the high school and middle school levels mirror those at the college level. Although national data on equity in athletics at the high school level is not available (federal law only requires colleges and universities to collect and make data publicly available), news reports and anecdotal information tell us that female athletes at this level are frequently treated like second-class citizens. For example, news stories often describe boys' equipment and facilities as being of stadium-like quality and girls' equipment and facilities as bare bones at best.

Title IX lawsuits at the secondary school level appear to be on the rise. Not only are parents suing local school districts, but some communities are also taking state athletic associations to court as well. Although not a Title IX case, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association in 2001 strengthened the hand of parents involved in these suits. The Court held that high school athletic associations are "state actors" and therefore subject to the U.S. Constitution's nondiscrimination requirements. In addition to Michigan, Title IX lawsuits have been brought against the state athletic associations in Kentucky, Virginia, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

How Sports Benefits Girls
Participating in sports has a positive impact on the educational, physical and emotional well being of young women and girls. By not providing them with the same resources and opportunities to play, we are telling our girls they are not valued as much as boys. Girls deserve to play and deserve equal support. It's only fair and we owe our young women and girls no less. For more information on Title IX and equity in sports, please visit the Athletics section of www.nwlc.org or call the National Women's Law Center at 202-588-5180.

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