D.C. Council holds hearing, eyes compliance with Title IX

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; 7:54 PM

More than a dozen witnesses testified over a three-hour span before the D.C. Council's Committee of the Whole on a bill aimed to make sure District public schools are in compliance with Title IX.

Bill 18-552, the "Title IX Athletic Compliance Act of 2009," proposed nearly a year ago, seeks to authorize a survey of all District public schools - both traditional and charter - from elementary through high school to determine whether each complies with Title IX, the law mandating gender equity at all federally funded institutions.

The bill also would create a strategic plan for compliance and require another analysis after five years to gauge improvements.

While colleges are required to submit participation data to the Department of Education for the purpose of determining Title IX compliance, there is no such obligation for public high schools. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.). proposed the Athletics Accountability Act in both 2007 and '09 to do just that, but neither were able to get out of committee.

"I'm very happy," said Janice Johnson, who has studied Title IX compliance at D.C. Public Schools and helped draft the D.C. bill, "because everyone now seems to understand that there's an elephant in the room. Now we just need to see it from the same point of view."

Council Chairman and Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) said Councilmember Michael A. Brown (D-At-Large) will hold discussions to make adjustments to the bill before it is brought to the floor for a vote. No timetable was discussed.

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment for the National Women's Law Center, testified and urged the Council to pass the bill and set a standard for other jurisdictions.

"Through this bill," Graves said, "D.C. could really become a leader in Title IX and sports."

Opponents, such as the College Sports Council, a group that argues against the cutting of male sports as a means for Title IX compliance, said given the city's budget deficit, the likely course of action would be to cut opportunities for male athletes.

"It is our concern," CSC Chairman Eric Pearson said, "that, under the threat of litigation on the one hand and budget pressures on the other, schools in the District will likely choose to cut the number of male athletes rather than increase female participation in order to prove compliance with Title IX's gender quota."

Several witnesses testified that the lack of female participation in D.C. public schools starts well before high school. Some highlighted how Wilson, which offered 26 varsity and junior varsity teams last school year - more than twice as many as some District schools - uses parent and community contributions to help sustain a large program.

"The disparity is great," said Tina Bradshaw-Smith, who has coached at Wilson, Eastern and Anacostia. "It goes back to education in elementary school."

Claire Keller, an eighth-grader at Hardy Middle School, testified to that. She noted how her school cannot field a girls' soccer team, but can have one for football. She said D.C.'s Department of Parks and Recreation sponsors Pop Warner football, but no girls' soccer. When it comes to her school's girls' basketball team, often times Hardy can't find enough opponents.

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