The D.C. State Athletic Association, which oversees high school athletics at all public, private and charter schools in the District of Columbia, held a Title IX workshop on Wednesday to educate athletic administrators responsible for compliance with Title IX mandates.
District of Columbia Public Schools have been criticized for gender inequities in their athletic programs, criticisms hardened when the National Women’s Law Center filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education in 2013.
About 20 athletic administrators from public and charter schools attended the workshop, which was run by W. Scott Lewis, head of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management and a founder of the Association for Title IX Administrators. Educators were informed about such topics as managing sexual misconduct in athletics, as well as ways to find and address gender inequalities in athletic programs within the limitations of high school budgets and facilities.
“The goal of the workshop is to educate employees about the mandates and requirements under Title IX,” Lewis said. “The other goal is to educate people about the spirit of Title IX. When you set mandates aside, what are you really trying to accomplish -- which is equality of access for everyone.”
In some D.C. schools, Title IX compliance is made more challenging by the lack of on-campus facilities and a general lack of participation in girls’ sports as compared to numbers in surrounding areas. Sometimes, tradition can lead to violations. Longtime habits such as scheduling all girls’ basketball games before the boys preclude opportunities for girls to play in prime-time games.
“The lightbulb kind of went off on ways we can do things a little better. For example, if a girl is interested in a sport and we don’t offer it, we can look at another school or start a practice squad if you don’t have enough students to start a team right away,” Thurgood Marshall Athletic Director Michele Thompson said. “It got me thinking about how I could make things a little more equitable at our school.”
The workshop also addressed issues of sexual misconduct, which go beyond assault to sexual harassment or bullying, Lewis said. While challenges created by facilities, scheduling, or budgets may vary from school to school, he said he’s found those issues to be misunderstood and therefore more problematic across the board.
“I think it’s really important [to hold these workshops] because with so many different types of schools — public schools, private schools, charter schools — it’s easy for some groups to get lost in the shuffle,” Friendship Collegiate Athletic Director Monty Fritts said. “I think it’s a really good meeting for us to sit down and make sure we’re not only taking care of boys sports, but taking care of our girls sports.”