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  • Reverse Sex Discrimination in New York City High School Sports?

    Title IX specifically prohibits gender discrimination in any program that receives federal funds and guarantees that schools must offer equal opportunities to student-athletes without regard to gender. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX’s passage, it has become most famous for its significant role in expanding and promoting athletic opportunities for female students. Notwithstanding the positive effects Title IX has had on schools across the country, sex discrimination in school athletics continues to be a fiercely debated issue in schools today.

    The most recent case to spark dispute is a decision from the New York City Department of Education. In 2010 the New York City Department of Education was sued for its alleged failure to comply with Title IX regulations and its alleged failure to provide equal athletic opportunities for females and males in New York City high schools. In response to the lawsuit, the New York City Department of Education approved 100 new female sports team citywide for the current school year. In addition, in an effort to “even out the playing field,” the New York City Department of Education exclusively formed female sports teams in newly created high schools, such as Maspeth High School and Metropolitan High School in Queens, but has not yet created male sports teams in these schools.

    In support of exclusively creating female sports teams in new high schools, the New York City Department of Education argues that by providing opportunities for female sports teams in new schools, and denying opportunities for males, the administration hopes the “imbalance” will work itself out over time. While the New York City Department of Education spokeswoman, Marge Feinberg, has explicitly recognized the important role school athletics plays in high school students’ lives today and has noted that the Board is “working hard to develop a plan for next year to create both male and female teams in new schools” she states that the effort to increase overall female participation in New York City school athletics is essential and of utmost importance right now.

    Critics of the New York City Department of Education’s decision argue that by failing to create male sports teams in order to finance female sports teams, schools are engaging in reverse sex discrimination and are in violation of Title IX. City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, an avid critic of the New York City Department of Education’s decision, argues that by “depriving students in a new school of access to sports teams seem is a misguided attempt to remedy past discrimination, is counterproductive, counterintuitive, and creates even more discrimination in New York City high school schools.” Critics also argue that since the new schools have had no participation in past discrimination against female athletes, that they should not be targeted by the Department of Education’s efforts to increase female participation. By refusing to provide equal opportunities to both female and male students in school athletics, the Department of Education is in violation of Title IX.

    School athletics has created a significant amount of controversy and the debate about the positive and negative effects of Title IX is not likely to cease in the near future.  If your institution has questions or concerns about this topic and you would like further information, please email Cynthia Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or call her at (516) 357 – 3753. **A special thanks to Hayley Dryer, a third-year law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, for helping with this post.