Discrimination in School Athletics

We're leading the fight for gender equality for Pennsylvania athletes.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs and requires schools to give women athletes equal opportunities and benefits. By means of federal litigation to enforce Title IX, we have significantly improved female athletic opportunities in Pennsylvania.

WLP Files Complaints with Office for Civil Rights

Most recently, in 2014, the Women’s Law Project filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education against nine members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PSSHE), asking OCR to address the historical and ongoing failure of these universities to provide equal athletic opportunity to their female students. Seven of these schools–Bloomsburg, Clarion, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Millersville, and Shippensburg–have entered into voluntary resolution agreements, all of which are being monitored by the Office for Civil Rights.

“Young women at all of the system universities deserve to be treated equally and to receive the benefits long accorded to their male counterparts in the athletic arena,” wrote Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson, in our letter to the PSSHE informing them of the lawsuit.

Schools with a history of failing to meet the requirements of Title IX must be monitored for compliance to ensure gender equity in athletic opportunities for girls and women. By actively monitoring Title IX compliance, we have gained unique insight into the strategies some schools use to attempt to appear, on the surface, to be in compliance with Title IX. These methods include the abuse of roster management and the inclusion of “ghost athletes.” We educate and inform communities about these practices in order to empower parents, coaches and citizens to track gender equity in athletics in their own schools.

In 2012, we were successful in having a law passed that requires middle and high schools to annually report athletic participation data by gender and race. Initial reports revealed gender disparities that underscore how important it is that Pennsylvania schools are required to submit this data, so that students, parents, coaches and the community at large can identify possible discrimination and ensure equality. We are currently working on a project to facilitate the distribution and publication of this information.