Girls Flag Football among School Gender Equity Plans

Article excerpt

Adding girls flag football and weightlifting are ways seven

Jacksonville area public schools hope to escape a threatened ban

of athletic competition.

Englewood, Fernandina Beach and Middleburg high schools even

reported they will cap male sports teams if necessary to comply

with state and federal gender equity laws.

In coming weeks, the state will review reports submitted

Tuesday by Englewood, Raines, Ribault, Andrew Jackson,

Middleburg and Fernandina Beach high schools and Green Cove

Springs Middle School.

These schools were threatened with ineligibility for not doing

enough to comply with state and federal gender equity laws in

sports.

They were given until Sept. 30 to submit a plan to the state to

correct inequities in their athletic programs.

The gender equity laws in question are the Florida Education

Equity Act passed in 1984 and Title IX, a federal law passed 25

years ago. Both laws mandate equal sports opportunities for

girls in public schools.

Both require a school's percentage of female varsity athletes

to equal the school's percentage of female students enrolled.

In their reports to the state, the seven schools indicate they

have hired or have plans to hire female coaches to aggressively

recruit for girls teams. Some want to bring in motivational

speakers and female athletes from local colleges to speak to

girls. Some schools are getting cheerleaders to perform at girls

athletic competitions.

Local school officials don't expect capping boys sports will be

necessary.

The state said that would be a way to meet the percentage

requirement but it isn't recommended.

"We don't encourage that," said Nancy Benda, a state program

director in charge of gender equity.

Other schools also submitted progress reports and will again in

June at the state's request. These schools remain out of

compliance but aren't facing sanctions because they have made

continuing progress.

The state crackdown on gender equity was announced three years

ago. Schools had until June 30 to comply.

Local school officials feel confident the seven schools facing

the ban will be cleared when state officials view their plans

which involve new and different sports for girls like bowling,

gymnastics and slow-pitch softball.

"It looks good from my point of view. We've put together some

good efforts here," said Corlette Bell, Duval's gender equity

coordinator.

"I think we'll be fine," said Jud Wilhelm, Clay County's

director of secondary education.

The state will review the reports and decide if they are

acceptable or not, said Benda.

She did not know how long the state's review would take.

Many schools are struggling with gender-equity requirements,

including 25 others in Duval, Clay, Nassau, Baker and St. Johns

counties. These schools don't meet the percentage requirement

but weren't threatened with ineligibility because they have

shown good faith efforts to comply with the law. …