True Executives of Title IX: Angry Parents

Ten years ago, Ginger Folger’s son, Johnny, played high school football in Gainsville, Ga., Their hometown, 50 miles northwest of Atlanta.

“The financial resources of the football team were amazing,” said Folger, who was amazed at the college-level facilities, equipment, clothing and training services.

A few years later, Folger’s daughter Isabella joined the Gainsville High School soft ball team. Folger crashed into a thunderstorm as the team went to the first training session.

“Our soft ball was terrible; “The girl broke her ankle in one of the holes from the outside,” he said. “We did not have protective barriers in front of the Dugus, the dirt lines were washed away and there was no grass in some places. Meanwhile, the boys ’baseball field had a lovely press box, fantastic dugouts, and a $ 10,000 event machine.

Folger sued Gainsville School District officials, but when no improvement was made, he did what many offended parents across the United States had been doing for more than 20 years. Encouraged by the proposed protection under the 1972 Act, known as Title IX, he filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school district of discriminating against girls who played high school softball.

The lawsuit ended with a joint decision: a district attorney said Gainsville School District spent about $ 750,000 to renovate the softball facility and also paid Folger’s attorney’s fees.

“We got a new press box, a discount stand, dugouts, a completely renovated playing surface, new lighting, a new whitewash, a new billboard, a new grid around the facility – basically a brand new stadium,” Folger said of the 2017 settlement. “And we guarantee that in the future, any improved objects on the baseball field will be reflected on the soft ball field.”

Many discussions on the effects of Title IX, signed June 23, 1972, by President Richard M. By Nixon, focused on inequality in colleges and universities. But for more than 50 years, the impact of the law has spread even more widely to thousands of high schools and high schools, requiring ample opportunities for millions of young female athletes. Nevertheless, in local schools, the enforcement of Title IX was most often followed by lawsuits – or the threat of one – driven by student families.

It has done more than feed the sports pipeline of colleges and universities. Those in the trenches fighting for title IX compliance say it was a power and creation of women sports defenders based on personal experience.

As Sam Schiller, one of the Tennessee law firms, has filed lawsuits against Title IX school districts in more than 30 states and never lost a case, he said: “We are now at a stage where women who were high school athletes are raising families. And they really know that their daughters need to have what men have had all this time. This is Title IX 2.0.

Folger added: “I have never been an angry feminist. “But I was able to show my daughter that she can stand up for herself and not be treated as a minority or an unequal person.”

Tracking the number of federal complaints related to sex-exclusive discrimination in school athletics – as opposed to Title IX disputes involving discrimination in educational attainment or sexual harassment – is difficult. But litigation is not the only way to measure how proactive parents have become in using Title IX to protect their children’s sports rights.

According to the Federal Department of Education, the agency responsible for enforcing Title IX, the number of complaints related to sex discrimination in athletics from kindergarten to 12th grade exceeds 40 colleges that include colleges from January 2021, according to a representative from the Department of Education. The vast majority of the more than 4,000 complaints at that time were filed by individuals rather than groups.

Striving for equal access to boys ‘and girls’ sports in high schools has been taking place since the general participation of girls exploded after the enactment of the law. In 1971, 294,015 girls played high school sports nationwide, representing 7 percent of high school athletes, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. In 2018-19, the last full season when the federation was able to survey schools due to the corovirus pandemic, more than 3.4 million girls participated in sports, which is 43 percent of high school athletes.

However, there are some obstacles to making sure schools comply with the law.

One knows he exists. A March survey by more than 1,000 parents and more than 500 children between the ages of 12 and 17 at Ipsos and the University of Maryland found that more than half of parents and nearly three-quarters of children had not heard of Title IX.

Another important obstacle is misinformation. In many high schools, for example, the quality of facilities, training opportunities, and even coach salaries enhance specific sports-enhancing clubs sponsored by athletes’ parents and local sponsors, who often raise tens of thousands of dollars to support one another. Sport. Most often, such money is used to raise football, boys basketball and baseball.

If this funding causes inequality between boys and girls spending on similar sports, the leaders of the Empowerment Club usually claim that they are a private entity that is not subject to school district officials – and therefore are not obliged to comply with Title IX.

However, the law places school districts responsible for the money and other resources provided to each team, regardless of the source. District leaders are committed to ensuring that the sports experience remains equal for girls and boys, even with independent funding. And this experience transcends areas and facilities, including details such as staffing, games and practice schedules, and transportation arrangements.

Ultimately, a large percentage of high schools, perhaps even the majority, remain inconsistent with Title IX provisions, according to leaders of many state high school associations. But progress is being made gradually, and in particular, Title IX clashes have rarely been followed by the liquidation of boys’ high school teams to help achieve gender equality – a divisive decision that many colleges have made for decades.

Schiller considered his first sport IX suit in the mid-1990s, not long after graduating from law school, when such cases were rare. Schiller’s practice is now entirely devoted to cases involving sex discrimination against high school or high school athletes.

None of his hundreds of cases went to court, said Soft Schiller. And he believes that the new kind of school district leaders are more educated about the rights that Title IX protects. He said the last time he visited school facilities was with a newly hired supervisor for the boys and girls teams, a woman who was a high school athlete.

After the tour, Schiller said the supervisor told him, “I know what it’s going to be and we’re going to make it equal.”

Schiller added: “For some reason, the federal court needs to pay attention to them and realize that they have to do it.”

Schiller also warns families to expect retaliation, even hostility, from the community when they file a lawsuit against school districts.

“When the story of my lawsuit came to light, people called me a troublemaker – they thought I was destroying Gainesville athletics,” Folger said. “Perhaps there are people who complain behind my back.”

Jennifer Sedlaჩეek, who lives in Bennington, Neb., Experienced a similar reaction when she and two other families filed a federal lawsuit against their school district for discriminating against their daughters’ teams.

“When the news of the lawsuit broke, it shook our small town,” said Sedlachek, whose daughter Taylor played softball and basketball. “He divided the city because people thought it would affect boys’ sports, which is not true. “People will give you that look and they will not really talk to you anymore.”

Folger said the stigma of being the person in the community who sued the school district for inconsistencies in boys ‘and girls’ sports may not have prevented thousands of parents across the country from suing for a Title IX. In his case, he could not force the other family of softball player Gainsville to join his lawsuit as a co-plaintiff.

“They were worried that their husbands were having problems at work because of a lawsuit, or they were afraid that people would be angry with them,” Folger said. “I was disappointed because I thought: What about your daughter? What do you teach him? Do you wonder what someone will say to you and teach your daughter to be meek and gentle? That’s the wrong message. “

Sedlaჩეek really had co-plaintiffs. They brought together parents from a variety of girls’ sports at their high school to show the many discrepancies between the boys’ and girls’ teams. They criticized unequal access to weight-bearing rooms, lack of sports trainers, and the use of portable toilets without water on the rink, which is a particularly painful topic for athletes and their parents.

The parents also set up a website in support of the lawsuit and organized a campaign to sell the T-shirts they had made with Roman numerals IX engraved on them. Girls team athletes wore T-shirts to school and city council meetings. This case attracted attention in the local media.

“When you are in court, you can not really say anything, but the girls were there out loud and trying to educate people,” said Jennifer Sedlachek. “It has not always been easy for them, because when you are an athlete, most of your friends are boys athletes, and then the administration goes crazy over you. But I was really proud that they stayed. ”

The lawsuit against the Bennington Schools was filed in February 2021 and settled six months later. The girls’ softball field improved quickly. Uniforms for girls basketball and softball teams have been updated, as well as other amenities for multiple girls teams. New toilets have been added to the softball field.

“Construction started very quickly and the field was completely rebuilt; “It looks amazing,” said Jennifer Sedlachek.

Taylor Sedlachek, who will play softball next season in Wichita, attended last year’s College Women’s World Series, the final part of the NCAA Division Softball Tournament in Oklahoma City, with her mother. The parents of the 14 players in the tournament were clients of Schiller and his ex-partner, Ray Yasser, who has retired.

“I thought it was a proud statement – to know that 14 of these girls had an IX title for them,” said Jennifer Sedlachek. “Maybe that’s how those girls got the opportunity to go far in their careers. Someone needed their support. ”

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