Real Implementers of Title IX: Angry Parents

A decade ago, Ginger Folger’s son, John, arrived in his hometown of Gainesville, Ga., About 50 miles northwest of Atlanta. I played high school football.

“The football team’s financial resources were amazing,” said Folger, who provided college-level facilities, equipment, apparel and training services.

Many years later, Folger’s daughter, Isabella, joined the Gainesville High School softball team. When Folger went into the team’s first practice, he was thunderstruck.

“Our softball field was terrible. A girl broke her ankle by stepping into one of the many holes in the outfield,” he said. “We didn’t have safety barriers in front of the dugout, the dirty lines were washed away and there was no grass in some parts. There was a machine.

Folger complained to district officials at Gainesville School, but when no improvement was made, he did what many troubled parents across the United States have been doing for more than 20 years. Encouraged by the protection afforded by the 1972 legislation known as Title IX, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination against girls playing high school softball in the school district.

The lawsuit was settled out of court, with the Gainesville School District paying about $ 750,000 to upgrade the softball facility, while also paying Folger’s attorney’s fees, according to a district spokesman.

Commenting on the 2017 settlement, Folger said: “We need a new press box, concession stand, dugouts, fully renovated game levels, new lighting, new bleachers, new scoreboards, new around the facility. Netting – basically a brand new stadium, “Folger said of the 2017 settlement. “And we’re guaranteed that going forward, any improvement on the baseball field will be reflected in the softball field.”

Significant debate over the effects of Title IX, signed by President Richard M. Nixon on June 23, 1972, has focused on inequality in colleges and universities. But in 50 years, the effects of the law have spread even more widely to thousands of high schools and middle schools, demanding basic opportunities for millions of young female athletes. Yet in local schools, enforcement of Title IX has come primarily through litigation – or intimidation – driven by students’ families.

It has done more than feed the sports pipeline for colleges and universities. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

As Sam Schiller, a Tennessee firm whose lawyer has filed Title IX lawsuits against school districts in more than 30 states and has never lost a lawsuit, said: “Now we are at a place where high The school’s athletes are raising female families, and they know for sure that their daughters have what the men have. The title is IX 2.0.

Folger added: “I’ve never been a feminist wearing a bra. But I was able to show my daughter that she can stand up for herself and that she can’t be considered inferior or equal to anyone.

Contrary to Title IX controversies involving discrimination or sexual harassment in educational opportunities – it is difficult to trace the number of federal cases related to sex discrimination, especially in school athletics. But litigation is not the only way to gauge how active parents are about using Title IX to protect their children’s athletic rights.

According to a spokesman for the Department of Education, in the Federal Department of Education, the agency responsible for enforcing Title IX, the number of complaints of sex discrimination in athletics from kindergarten to 12th grade has increased from 40 in colleges since January 2021. Has increased to one. The majority of the more than 4,000 complaints during this period were filed by individuals rather than groups.

The pressure for equal access to sports for boys and girls in high schools has come at a time when the overall participation of girls has exploded since the law was enacted. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, in 1971, 294,015 girls were playing high school sports nationwide, representing 7% of all high school athletes. In 2018-19, the last full season in which the Federation succeeded in surveying schools due to the Corona virus epidemic, there were more than 3.4 million girls participating in sports, accounting for 43% of all high school athletes. ۔

However, there are many obstacles for schools to ensure compliance with the law.

One has to know that it exists. A March survey of more than 1,000 parents and more than 500 children aged 12 to 17 from Ipsos and the University of Maryland found that more than half of parents and about three-quarters of children had not heard of Title IX. ۔

Another major obstacle is misinformation. Many high schools, for example, support sports-specific booster clubs on the quality of facilities, training opportunities and even coaching salaries that are funded through athletes’ parents and local sponsors. , Who often raise tens of thousands of dollars to help one another. Sports Often, this type of money is used to raise football, boys’ basketball and baseball.

If this funding causes a disparity in spending on boys ‘and girls’ sports, booster club leaders will generally argue that they are a private institution outside the jurisdiction of the school’s district authorities – and Therefore, they are not bound to comply with Title IX.

The law, however, holds school districts responsible for funding and other resources for each team, regardless of resources. District leaders are committed to ensuring that athletic experience remains the same for both boys and girls, despite independent financing. And the experience transcends fields and amenities, including details such as staff, sports and exercise schedules, and transportation arrangements.

According to the leaders of multiple state high school associations, in the end, a large percentage, perhaps even the majority, of high schools do not comply with Title IX regulations. But slowly, progress has been made, and in particular, Title IX clashes have rarely ended boys’ high school teams to help achieve gender equality – a divisive decision that has been made for decades. What colleges have done.

Schiller won his first Title IX athletic trial in the mid-1990s, shortly after graduating from law school, when such cases were rare. Schiller’s practice is now entirely dedicated to the sexual orientation of high school or middle school athletes.

The soft-spoken Schiller said not a single one of his hundreds of cases was pending. And he believes a new generation of school district leaders is more educated about the rights that Title IX protects. She said that for a recent case, she visited the school’s facilities for boys ‘and girls’ teams with a newly hired superintendent, a woman who had been a high school athlete.

After the visit, Schiller said the superintendent told him, “I know what this should be, and we’re going to make it equal.”

“For whatever reason, a federal court is needed to get their attention and make them feel they have to do it,” Schiller added.

Schiller also warns families to expect pushback, even hostility, from the community when they file lawsuits against school districts.

“Once the news of my trial broke, people started calling me a troublemaker – they thought I was destroying Gainesville Athletics,” Folger said. “Maybe people are still grumbling about me behind my back.”

Jennifer Sadlesick, who lives in Bennington, NAB, felt a similar reaction when she and two other families in her community filed a federal lawsuit against their school district for discriminating against their daughters’ teams. ۔

“The news of the suit shook our small town,” said Saddlesek, whose daughter, Taylor, played softball and basketball. “It divided the city because people thought it would affect boys’ sports, which is not true. People will shape you and they will not talk to you anymore.

Folger said the notoriety of being an individual in a school district community suing for discrepancies in boys ‘and girls’ sports may have prevented thousands of parents across the country from filing a Title IX lawsuit. In that case, she could not find a softball player from another Gainesville family to join her lawsuit as a co-plaintiff.

“She feared her husband might have trouble working on the suit or she was afraid people were going crazy over her,” Folger said. “It disappointed me because I was wondering: what will happen to your daughter? What are you teaching her? Are you worried about what someone is going to say to you and you are teaching your daughter to be gentle?” That’s the wrong message. “

Sedlacek’s co-defendants. In her high school years, she brought together parents from a variety of girls’ sports to highlight the many discrepancies between the way boys and girls treat teams. He criticized the unequal access to weightlifting rooms, the lack of athletic trainers and the use of portable toilets without running water in the softball field, which is a particularly painful issue for athletes and their parents.

The parents also launched a lawsuit in support of the lawsuit and launched a campaign to sell their custom-made T-shirts emblazoned with Roman numerals IX. Players from the girls’ teams wore T-shirts to school and town board meetings. The case drew attention in the local news.

“You really can’t say anything when you’re in a lawsuit, but the girls were making noises and trying to educate people,” said Jennifer Sadlesek. “It has not always been easy for them because when you are an athlete, most of your friends are boys players and then the management is angry with you. But I was really proud that he remained steadfast.

The lawsuit against Bennington Schools was filed in February 2021 and was disposed of six months later. Rapid improvement in the field of girls softball. The uniforms for the girls ‘basketball and softball teams were upgraded, as were the other facilities for the various girls’ teams. New toilets were added to the softball field.

“The construction started very quickly, and the field was completely rebuilt. That sounds amazing,” said Jennifer Seidlesick.

Taylor Sedlacek, who will play softball in Wichita State next season, participated in last year’s Women’s College World Series with her mother in Oklahoma City, the final part of the NCAA Division I softball tournament. The parents of the 14 players in the tournament were customers of Schiller and his former teammate Ray Yasir, who have retired.

“I thought it was a proud statement – to find out that 14 of these girls had a Title IX job at work for them,” said Jennifer Seidlesick. “Maybe that’s how these girls got the chance to reach this point in their careers. They needed someone to stand up for them.”

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