In 2010, the New York City Department of Education was slapped with a lawsuit for its failure to comply with Title IX regulations and provide equal athletic opportunities for girls and boys in New York City high schools. In an attempt to correct this imbalance, the Department of Education has put an embargo on the creation of new boys’ teams altogether — effectively discriminating against boys in new schools and continuing to disparage girls in existing schools.
In New York City there is nearly an 8 percent difference between the number of girls who are enrolled in the district and the number of female student-athletes. If this gap were closed, it would allow an additional 17,000 girls to participate in a sport. In order to close it, the DOE is relying on new schools to establish a better balance. By granting solely girls’ teams in new schools, and denying opportunities for boys, the administration hopes the imbalance will work itself out over time.
A more fitting solution would be to evaluate each school based on its individual merits. Just as the NCAA would not punish St. John’s University if Ohio State were non-compliant, the DOE should not punish a brand-new school with no established imbalance because another has a large participation gap. The discrepancies between boys’ and girls’ sports teams need to be evaluated on a school-by-school basis so that we can target the individual schools with well-documented inequalities and allow new schools to grow diverse, robust sports programs.
The logic behind the current DOE plan is not only flawed, but extremely disappointing to thousands of young people who wish to partake in their favorite extracurricular activities — ones which can help them focus more on academics and make them more attractive candidates to prospective colleges. Athletics offer young people the chance to build social skills, develop friendships and open themselves up to future educational and athletic opportunities.
This year, I have urged Chancellor Walcott to deal with the gender-based inequalities throughout New York City. What the Department of Education must realize is that the current policy fails to tackle gender inequality in the schools it is currently happening in, and this jeopardizes everyone’s chance at participating in extracurricular athletics. This is a passive and ineffective approach which has been largely unsuccessful in solving a decade-long issue and prevents New York City schools from providing a well-rounded education to all of its students.
˝itle IX regulations were established so that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.” In other words, we must provide equal opportunities to male and female students in proportion to their enrollment rate. Only through evaluating schools on an individual basis will we be able to do this effectively.
Elizabeth Crowley is New York City Councilwoman for the 30th District in west-central Queens.