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  • Girl Banned from Football because of Her Gender

    Title IX requires that schools receiving public funding must allocate those funds equally between male and female educational programs such as extracurricular sports. Since its passage over 40 years ago, Title IX has mandated equal opportunity regarding the promotion and expansion of extracurricular sports for female students.

    Back in March of 2012, Cynthia Augello, Associate at Cullen and Dykman LLP, appeared in an interview on “CBS This Morning” in connection with the appeal of Keeling Pilaro, a boy who was barred from playing on the girls’ field hockey team at his school. Ms. Augello discussed the application of Title IX to young Mr. Pilaro’s situation.

    In that case, the New York school allocated more public funding to sponsor exclusively all female sport teams and events than exclusively all male sport teams and events. The New York City Department of Education explained that the allocation towards the sponsorship of exclusively all female sport teams was provided in an attempt to balance out the playing field between the number of male and female sport teams. However, critics of the decision stated that the school’s selective sponsorship would only foster and perpetuate further sexual discrimination in public school athletics.  The Court ultimately ruled in favor of Mr. Pilaro and granted him permission to play on the school’s all girl field hockey team.

    You can see the interview or read a summary at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57434341/teen-to-learn-if-he-can-play-field-hockey-with-girls/.  The blog article related to this matter can be found at http://education.cdllpblogs.com/?p=91.

    Most recently in August of 2013, sex discrimination in extracurricular sports has hit the headlines once again. Except this time, the Title IX action is taking place in Baltimore, Ohio where 7th grader, Makhaela Jenkins, was denied the opportunity to try out for the middle school football team because the policy of the Liberty Union-Thurston School District prohibits girls from participating in contact sports.

    In response to the school’s prohibition, District Superintendant Paul Matthews stated that the school is not in violation of Title IX because there are other “opportunities” afforded to the girls that satisfy Title IX’s goal of equal opportunity between the sexes in the educational system.

    On the other side of the debate, the athlete offered her own assessment of gender equality. In a WTTE-TV interview the 7th grader spoke out about her rights and stated, “[s]ome people have different goals and dreams they want to follow, and if they want to play a sport, [they] should be able to play a sport no matter what gender you are.”

    As of right now, it is too soon to tell whether the school board’s policy violated Title IX standards. Despite this uncertainty, it is clear that the controversy encircling public school gender equality and the debate regarding the effects of Title IX is still ongoing.

    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 Melissa Cefalu, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for help with this post.