Forest Grove School District named in sweeping Title IX complaint

The Forest Grove School District, along with 59 others in Oregon, have been named in a complaint submitted to the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, alleging more athletic opportunities are currently provided for boys than girls, a violation of Title IX.

The administrative complaint, filed with the U.S. Dept. of Education's civil rights office in Seattle April 29, named nearly 100 high schools as being in violation of Title IX, the 1972 law mandating that any school receiving federal funds cannot discriminate based on sex in education or athletic opportunities.

The disparity between the number of female students and the number of opportunities for athletic participation sometimes rank in double-digits, according to the complaint.

Although as of 2010 Forest Grove was ranked to have a -9.1 percent disparity, the numbers show that the participation gap has been growing over the years. Data from 2004 indicated only a -.2.2 percent disparity.

The complaint breaks down the district's disparity and how to correct it by citing 2006 data, which showed that Forest Grove High reported a -3.1 percentage point gap. That percentage was based on the number of girls enrolled (910 female students) compared to boys enrolled (920 male students) and the percentage of athletes who were girls (345 female athletes) compared to boys (395 male athletes).

To be in Title IX compliance, the district would have needed to provide athletic opportunities to an additional 23 girls.

There are three ways in which a school can demonstrate Title IX compliance:

• Keep female and male athletic participation proportional to overall enrollment numbers;

• Show a trend of expanding female athletic opportunities; or

• Prove that the athletic needs and interests of its female students are being met.

Three 'prongs'

The complaint alleges Forest Grove is in violation of all three prongs of Title IX compliance.

At the varsity level the district offers the same number of sports teams for males and females with the exception of wrestling, for which there is no female equivalent sport offered. Males are offered football, basketball, baseball, soccer, track and field, cross country and wrestling. Females are offered basically the same sports except they have volleyball instead of football, softball instead of baseball and there is no wrestling team. Tennis, swimming, golf and water polo are also offered, but are considered club sports and are assessed differently.

Community criticism

A number of parents criticized the Forest Grove district this spring for decisions related to the allocation of pay for coaches during budget deliberations, saying football received more than its share of funding amid $7.5 million in cuts for 2011-12.

In May, superintendent Yvonne Curtis proposed the elimination of one coach each in football, baseball, cross country, softball and track at the high school, retaining eight football coaches, and called for the elimination of funding for golf, tennis and swimming. The athletics-related budget decisions caused some patrons to charge the school board favored boys' sports over those open to girls.

- Nancy Townsley contributed to this report.

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