Sports advocates sue Dept. of Education over Title IX

Font Size:

In one of the first major challenges of the application of Title IX’s three-point test in high schools, the American Sports Council (ASC) filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Education (EdD).

The federal lawsuit argues that the department’s use of gender quotas in high school athletic programs is a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

According to the ASC, formerly the College Sports Council, Title IX activists have been “intimidating” high school districts that they say do not have an adequate “gender balance” in their athletic departments.

Nationally, 1.3 million more boys than girls play high school sports. ASC believes compliance with the current interpretation of the law would result in those boys losing their opportunity to continue playing.

“Not only is this interpretation not supported by law, it has the potential of destroying much of what is so good about the uniquely American athletic system — one that produces the world’s best scholar-athletes,” said ASC Chairman, Eric Pearson. “This pattern of legal intimidation needs to stop.”

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed the suit on behalf of ASC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the quota system is unconstitutional. (Anti-obesity programs fail, so feds try again)

“Title IX does not require sex-based quotas in high school sports. Quota mandates are at odds with the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and equal treatment of people regardless of sex,” said PLF attorney Joshua Thompson. “But in recent years, federal policy guidelines on Title IX have made vague references to high schools in a way that allows pro-quota activists to misconstrue Title IX and wrongly demand that high schools institute quota policies.”

In 2007, the EdD rejected PLF’s petition to “revise or repeal” the current iteration of Title IX to clarify that it does not mandate quotas for high school sports. Thursday’s suit alleges that the EdD’s rejection of PLF’s initial petition was “arbitrary and capricious.”

PLF also argues that the department must clarify or repeal the law to clarify that it does not require high school districts to adhere to a quota system for athletics.

The need for clarification comes in the wake of objections from the feminist National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), which filed complaints with EdD’s Office of Civil Rights, charging that 12 school districts were discriminating against female athletes because of the lack of balance in the number of girls and boys playing sports.

ASC clarified to TheDC that while the lawsuit challenges the manner in which Title IX has been interpreted, it is supportive of the law as it is written.

Follow Caroline on Twitter