American Sports Council Attempts to Challenge Title IX

By Ariella Faitelson*

Nearly a week after the US Women’s Soccer Team faced off against Japan in the World Cup Finals, the American Sports Council (formerly known as the College Sports Council) publicized its lawsuit against the Department of Education. The suit attempts to rattle Title IX which outlawed gender discrimination in any educational setting or activity. Signed into law in 1972, Title IX has since dramatically increased opportunities and equality in athletics at all levels. Women’s participation in high school athletics from 1971 to today has increased by an astonishing 940 percent (based on statistics from the National Federation of High School Associations).

Proved by the increasingly visible progress for women in education, Title IX has clearly had an enormous positive impact in our country. Although most well-known for its influence in athletics, it has also opened up an arena in which girls and women have opportunities to excel in other educational areas, such as science and technology.

The lawsuit brought by the American Sports Council contests the three-part test that is used to determine compliance with Title IX. The test provides three different areas for academic institutions to demonstrate their compliance: proportionate opportunities to school enrollment, a history of increasing opportunities for women in sports, and proof that the institution is providing for the athletic interests and requests of female students. This three-part test was established in 1979 and has been applied to academic institutions across the board.

The American Sports Council, along with the Pacific Legal Foundation, claims that this test produces quotas in academic institutions that have in effect caused a decrease in sports opportunities for men. They blame the use of the term “intercollegiate,” rather than “interscholastic” to imply that the law does not apply to high schools. Additionally, they believe that the three-part test relies on a quota which impedes the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

This is not the first time that this lawsuit has been presented. In 2008, the Pacific Legal Foundation brought an identical case to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) insisting that Title IX does not apply to high school athletics. The OCR rejected the case in a letter explaining that Title IX uses language specifically referring to high schools. In 2011, a similar case was brought against the Department of Education in the Fourth Circuit. The decision “reiterated that Title IX was Constitutional, it did not create quotas, that it was passed and applied fairly” (Women’s Sports Foundation response).

Several of NCRW’s Member Centers have responded to the Title IX lawsuit. The first of which is the National Women’s Law Center, who was mentioned in the NYTimes article explaining this lawsuit. The NWLC not only provided statistics regarding women in athletics, but also presented the notion of Title IX standing as a civil right rather than a privilege:

“If schools choose to invest resources in sports for men and not women, they are denying these many benefits to their female students. For that reason, protection under Title IX isn’t a privilege – it’s a civil right.”

Read the entire NWLC blog post here.

Additionally, the Women’s Sports Foundation responded to this lawsuit by stating that “Title IX is alive and well in all school sports, and will not be affected by this lawsuit.” Read their analysis of the lawsuit here.

*Ariella Faitelson is a Communications Intern with the National Council for Research on Women. She is a junior at Emory University studying Women's Studies and Sociology.


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