On February 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released three new resources regarding equal opportunity in athletic programs under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). The new resources are designed to help schools, as well as students and parents, evaluate whether an athletic program satisfies the requirements of Title IX.
Specifically, public elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, universities, and other schools that receive federal funding (collectively, “schools”), have an obligation under Title IX to provide equal athletic opportunities to all students, regardless of sex. As such, schools must effectively accommodate the athletic interests and abilities of their students, regardless of sex, and provide equal opportunity in the benefits, opportunities, and treatment afforded to their athletic teams.
The new resources, which summarize but do not change any existing legal requirements, can be described as follows:
- Supporting Equal Opportunity in School Athletic Programs is designed as a resource for students and families and identifies examples that could, depending on particular facts and circumstances, raise Title IX concerns.
- Title IX and Athletic Opportunities in K-12 Schools explains students’ right to participate in interscholastic, intramural, or club athletic programs free from discrimination based on sex. It also provides an overview of how to evaluate whether a school is (1) meeting students’ athletic interests and abilities and (2) providing equivalent benefits, opportunities, and treatment for its boys’ and girls’ teams. This latter analysis involves a review of many factors, including equipment and supplies, game and practice time schedules, travel and daily allowances, coaching, locker rooms and practice and competition facilities, medical and training facilities and services, and publicity. As explained by OCR, schools must consider booster club support for their athletic teams when evaluating the equivalence of benefits, opportunities, and treatment afforded to boys and girls in their athletic program.
- Title IX and Athletic Opportunities in Colleges and Universities explains students’ rights to participate in intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic programs free from discrimination based on sex. For college and university athletics programs, Title IX compliance is assessed by examining: (1) how the school meets students’ athletic interests and abilities, (2) how the school awards athletic scholarships and financial assistance, and (3) the benefits, opportunities, and treatment provided to men’s and women’s teams. OCR will look at many factors to determine whether the school offers equivalent benefits, opportunities, and treatment, including equipment and supplies, game and practice time schedules, travel and daily allowances, coaching, academic tutors, locker rooms and practice and competition facilities, medical and training facilities and services, housing and dining services, publicity, and recruitment activities. In addition, OCR will consider the contributions of booster clubs and other organizations and individuals when evaluating whether the benefits, opportunities, and treatment are equivalent for both men and women in a school’s athletic program.
Schools are advised to utilize these new resources to help them review their athletic programs holistically for compliance with Title IX. If you have any questions about your program’s Title IX obligations, please contact Dori Pagé Antonetti at email@example.com, Julie Jaquays at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jessica Richman Smith at email@example.com.