A sex-discrimination complaint filed against six school districts will likely be dropped, but issues raised by the complaint are prompting change in sports programs throughout Utah, officials say.
Of the six school districts named in the complaint, Box Elder, Logan and Ogden school districts have adopted girls soccer and softball teams as a complement to boys soccer and baseball teams.Davis and Weber school boards, whose members have opposed the plan, are expected to adopt the team designations Tuesday night. Cache School District officials say they are waiting for the completion of a student survey before the school board votes on the matter.
"(For the six districts) it is moot at this point," said Richard Gomez, coordinator of equity section at the State Office of Education. "I would like to applaud the districts for being so responsive. Both the districts and the Office of Civil Rights have tried to arrive at some type of win-win situation."
While documentation that equity is reached in these districts must still be provided to Office of Civil Rights officials, Gomez said he believes they are satisfied changes are being made. That means that on-site inspections of the six districts once scheduled by officials from Denver will probably not occur.
The issue surfaced in December when Davis District psychologist and Roy resident Joe Langeveld filed a complaint alleging the six districts violated Title 9 of the 1972 Education Amendments because they sponsored varsity soccer teams for boys but not for girls. Districts that don't comply with the law lose federal funds.
In January, with the complaint looming, the Utah High School Activities Association sanctioned soccer and softball as varsity sports. Sanctioning the sports made them an option at the discretion of local school boards, but those districts that do choose to offer the sports must meet certain requirements regarding coaching staff, transportation and equipment.
Robert Thurgood, Davis School Board member, said he will not now oppose approving the new sports for the district's five high schools although he has problems with how the school activities association sanctioned them.
He said the association was forced to adopt the sports because they felt doing otherwise would create an expensive court battle. But the official designation will cost taxpayers more than if the girls teams could have been adopted as clubs. That status could cost the district as much as $5,000 a school, he said.
Since the complaint was filed, the State Office of Education has been conducting sports interest surveys of both boys and girls in the six districts named in the complaint as well in Salt Lake, Granite and Jordan School districts. The surveys have asked students to indicate their interest in everything from wrestling to field hockey.
"Now the two sports have been sanctioned, it hopefully makes every district interested in addressing the issue," Gomez said. He said districts must decide to add the sports or, if they can't afford them, to alter sports programs to provide equal opportunity for boys and girls.
Some have already gotten the message and there is a feeling most Wasatch Front schools will adopt the girls teams, said Jordan Superintendent Raymond W. Whittenburg.
Secondary principals in Granite School District recently voted to recommend their school board add girls softball and soccer. The board still must give final approval to the recommendation. Jordan District, which adopted club soccer for girls after a similar civil rights complaint was filed against it, will also likely change those teams to sanctioned sports, said Whittenburg.
"This is going affect everybody in the state of Utah," said Fred Crawford, director of health and sports programs in Granite District. "There is feeling that everyone ought to accept the recommendation of the Utah High School Activities Association or a suit will follow for every one of the 40 school districts in the state."