April 2 2012

Title IX in High Schools—We Must Wait for the Harm

Carrie L. Lukas

Last week, a District Court dismissed the American Sports Council’s lawsuit against the Department of Education, ruling that ASC lacked the standing to sue.  

As I've written before, the Department of Education has moved to apply Title IX’s existing enforcement protocols to high schools nationwide.  That means that high schools everywhere will face the specter of expensive lawsuits if the makeup of student athletes fails to mirror their overall enrollment. 

Perhaps it is legally necessary for the courts to wait to hear the case until a wrestling or men’s baseball team is wiped out in the name of Title IX.  And, as we’ve seen from the experience of Title IX enforcement at the collegiate level, it’s only a matter of time before that day comes.  

Right now, the only way that colleges can inoculate themselves from Title IX lawsuits is by making the numbers add up, so that if 60 percent of their student body is female then 60 percent of their athletes are too.  It’s no surprise that many schools have just eliminated men’s sports teams to get the ratio right.  And, in fact, research shows that hundreds of men's programs have been eliminated in pursuit of Title IX's compliance. 

It’s troubling to think that any athlete is denied the opportunity to participate in sports because of some politically-correct government policy, but it’s particularly sad when considered in the context of men’s decreased engagement in school.  Research confirms what parents instinctively know—extra-curricular activities are good for kids, and help them gain confidence.   Girls dominate other extra-curricular activities (from theater to academic clubs to student newspapers to student government).  Sports is the one area that boys continue to express more interest in, so naturally it’s the one area in which government has decided to create a gender quota regime.

It would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so serious.  There are currently 1.3 million more boys participating in high school sports than girls. Using a gender quota to enforce Title IX in high school sports would put those boys athletes at risk of losing their opportunity to play, which could damage their overall school performance.

We now know that the court isn’t going to save us from this unnecessary, counterproductive policy.  Parents and concern citizens need to step in and urge policymakers at all levels to honor the idea behind Title IX and end the existing Title IX enforcement regime’s defacto discrimination against male athletes. 

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