U.S. Department of Education and Indianapolis Public Schools Reach Agreement to Provide Equal Access to Interscholastic Athletics for Female Students


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The U.S. Department of Education today announced that its Office for Civil Rights has reached an agreement with the Indianapolis Public Schools in Indiana to ensure that the district provides equal athletic opportunities for girls. OCR independently initiated the investigation to examine whether the district discriminated against female students by denying them an equal opportunity to participate in its high school interscholastic athletics program.

OCR found the district to be in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires schools to effectively accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of its male and female students but offers schools more than one means of demonstrating compliance, and also requires schools to provide equal benefits to male and female athletes.

The investigation found the district's interscholastic athletics program failed to provide girls an equal opportunity to participate in high school interscholastic athletics, both through failure to provide actual sports opportunities to girls and through failure to provide equal access to practice and competitive facilities, locker rooms, equipment and supplies, and scheduling of games and practice times.

"This resolution agreement embodies the fundamental Title IX principles that school districts must provide girls and boys with both equal opportunity to participate and equal benefits and opportunities as participants in interscholastic athletics programs," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. "Girls in schools across the country deserve to expect that their schools will support their desire to compete at a high level in a fair and competitive environment."

Information obtained during OCR's investigations revealed large disparities between the individual high school and the district-wide enrollment of female students and their participation in high school interscholastic athletics. For the 2010-11 school year, total high school enrollment was approximately 5,538 students, with almost 50 percent boys and 50 percent girls. Yet of the approximately 1,466 participants in the district’s athletic programs, only 35 percent of were girls, compared to 65 percent boys. The 15-percentage point disparity between the enrollment rate of girls and their interscholastic athletic participation rate represents a total of approximately 445 additional participation opportunities that could be provided for girls.

Under the terms of the agreement with OCR, the district commits to ensuring that it will provide an equal opportunity for female students to participate in the athletics programs at its each of its high schools. The resolution agreement requires the district to increase participation opportunities for girls in its high school athletics programs and improve the athletic facilities, equipment and supplies, and primetime scheduling of game and practice times provided for girls’ teams.

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • Conducting an assessment to determine whether there are unmet athletic interests and abilities among female students. Based on the results of the assessment, if there are unmet interests and abilities, the district will take steps to increase athletic opportunities for female students. These steps may include new sports teams for girls, additional levels for existing teams or increased sizes for existing teams.
  • Develop, implement and publicize a procedure for students or other interested parties, such as coaches or parents, to use in requesting the addition of new sports or levels of sports at the high schools.
  • Take prompt steps to remedy the inequities that OCR's investigation revealed in the benefits and services such as uniforms and competitive and practice facilities provided to girls that participated in the district's high school athletics programs.
  • Create and implement a comprehensive policy to regulate booster club funding and any other private donations flowing into the athletic programs at each high school to ensure that, if the funding results in disparities in benefits and services favoring athletes of one sex over the other sex, the district will take action at the high school to ensure that the benefits and services are equivalent for both sexes.

OCR will closely monitor the district's implementation of the agreement to ensure that the commitments made are implemented in a timely and effective manner and results in equal athletic opportunities for the female students. OCR will not close its monitoring until OCR determines that the district has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with the provisions of Title IX that were at issue in this review. OCR is not requiring or encouraging the elimination of any district team and is seeking action from the district that does not involve the elimination of athletic opportunities for either sex.

A copy of the resolution letter is posted here and the agreement here.

OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. For more information about OCR and how OCR processes civil rights cases, please visit OCR's website at www.ed.gov/ocr.