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