Title IX now doing damage in elementary schools

Eric McErlain Sports Blogger
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For a number of years now, I’ve been closely tracking the way that Title IX has been enforced in American athletics. While most people still associate Title IX and its rigid gender quotas with colleges and universities, enforcement of the law has now reached elementary and secondary education — and many of the effects of the law are quite shocking to the uninitiated.

The most recent example comes from the Pittsburgh public school system. The following is from a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

If a young girl wanted to play basketball in the Pittsburgh Public Schools last season, she didn’t have many options.

Only two schools had a K-5 girls’ team. Other schools invited girls to play on co-ed teams in a male-dominated 16-team league against boys’ teams. And at some schools, no girls played basketball.

Now, K-5 boys and girls will be split as the district revamps its program to remedy years of “Title IX equity issues,” or unequal opportunities for girls.

But there’s a twist.

If a school can’t field enough players for both a boys’ and a girls’ team, neither team will be allowed to compete in the eight-game season that begins in January.

I think we can all agree that getting young girls to participate in athletics is a good thing. What I don’t understand, and can’t quite believe, is why education bureaucrats like the ones in Pittsburgh think it’s right and just to punish elementary school boys when their female counterparts fail to participate in sports in equal numbers.

I wish this story from Pittsburgh was the only one I could share about the excesses of Title IX outside of college athletics, but that’s simply not the case. All around the country, high school booster clubs are under threat and, in some cases, have even come under investigation from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for potential violations of the law.

2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Next June, as the mainstream media turns its attention to the milestone, I seriously doubt many reporters will pay much attention to stories like these. That’s a shame, because the real story about Title IX is that a law that was intended to promote equal opportunity for all has turned into a cudgel to force equality of outcomes.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help  integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.