Bush Administration Trying to Bench Female Athletes

Article excerpt

Last summer, the Bush Administration set up the misnamed Commission on Opportunities in Athletics to "analyze" Title IX, the widely supported federal law that bans sex discrimination in federally funded schools and colleges, and its implementation with regard to athletic programs. The commission was stacked with opponents of Title IX-its real purpose apparently to provide cover for the dismantling of Title IX and the opportunities that it ensures for women and girls.

Throughout the fall and winter, the Commission staged regional town hall meetings at which Title IX critics were given plenty of time to speak while supporters were regularly refused that opportunity.

Now the Commission has recommended a series of complicated but deadly changes to the Title IX standards-changes that will devastate girls' and women's sports programs. Although the Commission wants the public to believe that these changes are "moderate," they will drastically limit the opportunities available to girls and women in athletics. Women's sports experts say that under some of the proposals, girls would lose several hundred thousand high school athletic opportunities and tens of millions of dollars each year in college athletic scholarships.

The Commission's radical recommendations include:

* Creating loopholes that allow schools to misrepresent (by not counting some students) both the number of opportunities that they are providing and the number of slots that they should be providing to female athletes.

* Allowing schools to use "interest surveys" to prove that more men than women are interested in sports. Surveys can only assess the level of interest girls have based on previous exposure to sports, not the interest they might have with expanded opportunities.

* Authorizing private slush funds that increase the financial support for men's teams at the expense of women's teams.

* Giving the secretary of Education carte blanche to identify "additional ways of demonstrating compliance with Title IX" that could give high schools and colleges even more ways to avoid equal opportunities in the spirit of Title IX-ways that were not even presented to the Commissioners. …