Maryland state education officials will probably have to change the wording of a proposal intended to increase athletic opportunites for females, but which, as currently drafted, threatens to limit them.
That was the conclusion today of Joseph L. Shilling, deputy superindendent of education, following a 90-minute hearing on proposed changes in the guidelines of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
Another proposal to drop the ban on outside participation on sports teams by students on high school teams was strongly endorsed by a number of speakers but opposed by county athletic directors. Shilling said the ban will have to be reviewed to determine if it violates constitutional rights.
The proposal to climinate sex restrictions in all sports was strongly opposed by physical education teachers, a women's sports organization and the athletic directors, who included Bill Kyle of Montgomery County and Allen Sager, representing Prince George's County.
Under the proposal, any student could participate in any sport, regardless of sex. Currently, there are separate teams for girls and boys in some contact sports. The MPSSAA defines these contact sports as basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soceer and wrestling.
The opponents of the proposal fear that it would lead to the elimination of girls' teams if boys, who are generally stronger and swifter than girls their age, try out for the girls' teams. Very few girls would be able to make a boys team.
Such fear sprung up when Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs including athletics), went into effect two years ago.
Although there have been isolated instances of boys joining such girls' teams as volleyball, the fears were largely unfounded since Title IX allowed for the creation of separate-sex teams in contact sports.
But Title IX permitted the formation of coed teams in noncontact sports (except when separate teams exist), such as volleyball and softball, when opportunities for one sex had previously been limited. That stipulation was widely considered to affect girls' opportunities more than boys'.
"Due to previous limited opportunities, most girls and women have not had equal access to quality coaching, facilities, equipment and competition. Therefore, most are not adequately prepared to take their rightful place on a team open to students of both sexes," said Ruth Koonigsberg of the Maryland Division of Girls and Women Sports.
Malcolm Kitt, an assistant state attorney general assigned to the Department of Education, explained that the proposal to eliminate all sex restrictions was drafted in an attempt to conform with the Maryland Equal Rights Amendment.
An interpretation of the state ERA, he said, led to the conclusis that any restrictions based on sex were probably legal. The state ERA, he added, takes precedence over Title IX guidelines.
Shilling and Kitt said the proposed amendment might have to be rewritten to reflect the department's intent. It is slated to take effect Aug. 8, but, if rewritten before then, would have another 4-5 day review period.