When Title 9 was initiated, demanding an end to sex discrimination in schools, Utah added a bevy of girls' activities to school rosters.
Even so, athletic programs in six Utah districts are being challenged to determine if they meet the federal requirements. A discrimination claim has been filed with the regional offices of the Office of Civil Rights.The discrimination claims relate specifically to the lack of soccer teams for girls. Meetings are being held to discuss the claims and to attempt to resolve the problem through negotiation.
"People are assuming the districts are out of compliance, but that may not be the case," said David Wilkey, assistant director of the Utah High Schools Activities Association.
Schools have tried to meet the Title 9 requirements in various ways, he said. Having soccer available as a coed activity may technically meet the demand. Most of the districts in Utah have had female members on mixed soccer teams, Wilkey said. The discrimination suit filed against the Cache, Logan, Box Elder, Ogden, Weber and Davis districts argues that all-girl soccer teams should be required.
"The number of girls playing soccer has grown. They have been playing on high school teams since the sport was added as a state-sanctioned activity five years ago," he said. The association has twice considered adding girls-only soccer to its list of sanctioned sports, but twice turned it down, based primarily on the costs.
A "rough estimate" of the costs of having girls' soccer added to a school's roster of competitive sports was set at $5,000, Wilkey said. The costs would represent items such as certified coaches, regulation fields, uniforms and referees.
"Title 9 doesn't ask if you can afford it. It says make things fair. Schools have really grappled with it. We can't afford to keep adding new activities. We've had a message from our public saying they want taxes cut. Title 9 doesn't address those issues."
Currently, Utah retains an old provision that bars girls from participating in sports that require direct body contact with males, including football and wrestling, Wilkey said. The association is considering dropping this exclusion, as it could be questioned in a strict interpretation of Title 9.
Across the country, some girls have chosen to participate in football, but few have persisted, Wilkey said.
Not all school sports activities have been viewed historically as for boys only, he said. Only girls have traditionally been involved in volleyball, drill team and some gymnastics events.
"We feel at this point that we have an equal number of activities," Wilkey said, although they may not be the same activities in every instance.
Jordan School District was the focus of an earlier Title 9 challenge. The district was accused of sex discrimination in its athletic programs. Girls' soccer and baseball clubs for girls were established for the 1987-88 school year after the Office of Civil Rights ruled against the district.
Jordan also made other adjustments, including making gymnasiums and other facilities available to females on an equal basis and allowing sophomore girls to participate in volleyball and basketball competitions. Cheerleader support was provided for some girls' competitions, and lockers were upgraded for female athletes, spokeswoman Patti Dahl said.