Fairness in girls’ sports dominates Title IX hearings

Millions of girls are on 'a blatantly uneven playing field' in K-12 sports, attorney says
By: | June 7, 2021

Despite Title IX protections, girls still don’t have the same opportunities to thrive in K-12 sports that boys experience, one attorney said during an Office for Civil Rights virtual hearing Monday.

Girls, particularly those from lower-income families, have far fewer opportunities to play sports in schools that are not meeting Title IX obligations, said Kim Turner, senior staff attorney for Fair Play for Girls in Sports, a nonprofit gender equity and LGBTQ rights organization.

“Still today, millions of girls are not being afforded opportunities in school sports and those that do play are on a blatantly uneven playing field,” Turner said.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, also known as OCR, is holding a five-day virtual hearing as it reviews Trump-era revisions to Title IX regulations and works to implement President Joe Biden’s March 8 executive order on “Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”

To solve problems of fairness in athletics, OCR should mandate regular Title IX training for schools as it disperses federal funding and create a website that explicitly spells out Title IX standards. OCR should also regularly review how well school districts are adhering to Title IX, Turner said.

Transgender athletes and Title IX

The issue of transgender athletes’ participation in girl’s sports raised questions of fairness from some parents and students. Selina, a high school track and field athlete from Connecticut, recounted her experiences racing against athletes who were assigned male at birth who were “bigger, faster and stronger than me.”

How to participate in Title IX hearing

Members of the public share their comments in this week’s Title IX hearings by registering with the Department of Education.

“I have spent countless hours trying to shave fractions of a second off my time because I race to win but my chances of being the best were shattered,” she said. “I remember what it was like to line up for a race and get into my blocks already knowing the outcome of the race long before it started.”

Girls in her situation risk losing out on state and regional titles, college recruitment opportunities and scholarships, she said.

“Title IX was designed to ensure that female athletes have the opportunity to compete and win but less than 50 years after passing this landmark law we girls are losing to male athletes because of the bad policies that substitute gender identity for biological sex,” she said. “Women fought long and hard for the opportunity to compete and win in their own sports. Please, protect women’s sports for female athletes like me. Thank you.

Christina Mitchell, a mother of three female athletes who are also from Connecticut, says allowing transgender athletes to participate in girls sports “wipes aways” opportunities created by Title IX.

“Female athletes who worked hard to be the very best in their sports were denied the thrill of victory and the honor of being a champion,” Mitchell said. “Hundreds of girls in Connecticut have lost their chance to compete because biological sex categories were abandoned.”

But Rebekah, a rising transgender ninth-grader for New Jersey, said being welcomed on her field hockey team has allowed her to feel affirmed and, in turn, thrive in school.

She also said she has never had a problem using the girls’ locker room or bathrooms and her name and pronouns have been correct in school databases.

“I’ve had amazing support from my family, community and my school from the very beginning,” she said. “I know that makes me very lucky but it also means it can be done …. because my school never questioned my identity, never do my peers.”