A decade ago, Ginger Folger’s son John played high school football in Gainesville, Ga., Their hometown, about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta.
“The financial resources of the football team were impressive,” said Folger, who marveled at university-level equipment, supplies, clothing and training services.
Several years later, Folger’s daughter Isabella joined the Gainesville High School softball team. Folger was struck by lightning when he went to the team’s first practice.
“Our soft football field was awesome; “The girl broke her ankle and fell into one of the many holes outside the stadium,” he said. “We had no security barriers in front of the canoes, dirty lines were washed away and grass was not present in some areas. . ”
Folger complained to Gainesville school district officials, but when improvements were not made, he did something that many grieving parents across the United States have been doing for more than 20 years. accused the school district of discriminating against girls who played softball in high school.
The case ended in a joint resolution: Gainesville School District resolved to spend approximately $ 750,000 to upgrade the softball center, while also paying for Folger’s attorney fees, according to a district spokesman.
“We got a new press box, a shopping stand, a completely renovated playground, new lights, new bleachers, a new result board, a new net near the center – basically a completely new stadium,” Folger said of the 2017 solution. “And we got the assurance that going forward, the improvement of any facility on the baseball field will be reflected in the soft football field.”
Many discussions about the effects of the IX Head, signed on June 23, 1972, by President Richard M. Nixon, have focused on inequality in colleges and universities. But the impact of the law over the past 50 years is spreading across thousands of high schools and high schools, demanding basic opportunities for millions of young female athletes. Still in local schools, the implementation of Head IX has come primarily through a case – or a single threat – run by student families.
That has done more than feed the sports pipeline for colleges and universities. Those in the trenches fighting to follow Title IX say it has been empowering and has created women’s sports advocates based on personal experience.
As Sam Schiller, whose Tennessee law firm has filed IX Head cases against school districts in more than 30 states and never lost a case, said: “We are now at a stage where women who were high school athletes they are raising a family, and they certainly know their daughters are supposed to have what men have always had. It’s Head IX 2.0. “
Folger added: “I have never been a womanizer. But I was able to show my daughter that she could stand up for herself and not be viewed as inferior or incompetent. ”
50 Years of IX Title
The historic Gender Equality Act, which was signed into law in 1972, changed women’s access to education, sports and much more.
Tracking the number of government cases related to gender discrimination in school athletics – as opposed to the IX Chapter disputes involving discrimination in educational opportunities or sexual harassment – is difficult. But the case is not the only way to test how active parents have been using IX Title to protect their children’s athletic rights.
In the Federal Department of Education, the agency responsible for implementing Chapter IX, the number of complaints involving sexual discrimination in athletics from kindergarten to grade 12 exceeds that involving colleges by 40 to one since January 2021, according to a Department spokesman. Education. A large number of more than 4,000 complaints during that period were submitted by individuals rather than groups.
The impetus for equal access to sports for boys and girls in high schools comes as the overall participation of girls explodes as the law accelerates. In 1971, there were 294,015 girls playing high school sports across the country, which represented 7 percent of all high school athletes, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. In 2018-19, the last full season in which the federation was able to conduct a school screening because of the coronavirus epidemic, there were more than 3.4 million girls participating in sports, 43 percent of all high school athletes.
There are, however, several obstacles to ensuring that schools comply with the law.
One is to know that it exists. A March survey conducted by Ipsos and the University of Maryland of more than 1,000 parents and over 500 children aged 12 to 17 found that more than half of parents and nearly three-quarters of children did not hear about Title IX.
Another major obstacle is inaccurate information. In many high schools, for example, the quality of equipment, training opportunities and even coaching salaries are enhanced by special sports promotion clubs funded by the parents of athletes and local donors, who often donate tens of thousands of dollars to one person. . game. Often, the same type of money is used to promote soccer, boys’ basketball, and basketball.
If the funding makes a difference between what is used in the same boys ‘and girls’ games, additional club leaders usually claim that they are a private entity outside the supervision of the school district officials – and therefore are not responsible for complying with IX Title.
The law, however, holds school districts responsible for the money and other resources sent to each team, regardless of sources. District officials have a responsibility to ensure that athletic experience remains the same for girls and boys even with independent funding. And that experience extends beyond fields and facilities, including information such as staff, sports and exercise schedules and travel arrangements.
Finally, a large percentage of high schools, perhaps even large ones, remain disobedient to the IX Principle regulations, according to leaders of many state high school associations. But gradually, progress has been made, and in particular, the IX Head conflicts have rarely led to the removal of boys’ high school teams to help achieve gender equality – a divisive decision that many colleges have made over decades.
Schiller handled his first Title IX athletics case in the mid-1990s, shortly after graduating from law school, when such cases were rare. Schiller’s practice is now fully dedicated to cases involving the discrimination of high school or high school athletes.
None of his cases have been heard, said Schiller, who spoke softly. And he believes new types of school district officials are more educated about the rights that the IX Head protects. He said in a recent case, he visited school supplies for both boys and girls teams and a newly hired supervisor, a woman who had previously been a high school athlete.
After the visit, Schiller said the supervisor told him, “I know what this should be, and we will make this right.”
Schiller added, “For whatever reason, it takes the federal court to get their attention and make them realize they have to do this.”
Schiller also warns families to expect setbacks, even hostility, in the community when they file a lawsuit in court against school districts.
“As soon as the news of my case came out, people started calling me a nuisance – they thought I was ruining Gainesville athletics,” Folger said. “Maybe there are still people complaining about me on the back of my back.”
Jennifer Sedlacek, who lives in Bennington, Neb., Felt the same shock when she and two other families in her community filed a lawsuit against their school district for discriminating against their daughter’s teams.
“When the news of the suit came out, it shook our little town,” said Sedlacek, whose daughter, Taylor, played softball and basketball. “It divided the city because people thought it would affect the boys’ games, which is not true. People would give you this image and they would never talk to you again.”
Folger said the stigma of being a person in the community who sued the school district over differences in boys and girls’ sports probably has prevented thousands of parents across the country from filing an IX case. For his part, he could not find another Gainesville family of softball player to join his suit as a co-complainant.
“They were worried that their husband might have problems at work about the suit or they were worried about people getting angry with them,” Folger said. “It frustrated me because I was thinking: What about your daughter? What do you teach him? Are you worried about what someone will tell you and you are teaching your daughter to be gentle and kind? That’s the wrong message. ”
Sedlacek had co-complainants. They encouraged parents from a variety of girls’ sports in their high school to highlight the many differences between how boys’ and girls’ teams were treated. They denounced the unequal access to weightlifting rooms, the lack of athletic trainers and the use of portable toilets on the football field, much to the chagrin of athletes and their parents.
The parents also set up a website to support the case and organized a movement to sell the T-shirts they made that were copied by Roman IX numbers. Athletes from the girls’ teams wore T-shirts at school and at a city board meeting. The case drew attention to the inside news.
“When you’re on trial you can’t say anything, but the girls were out talking and trying to educate people,” Jennifer Sedlacek said. “It wasn’t always easy for them because when you were an athlete, most of your friends were boys’ athletes and then the regime got angry with you. But I was very proud that they persevered.”
The case against Bennington schools was filed in February 2021 and resolved six months later. Improvements to the girls’ softball field were made quickly. The girls ‘basketball and soft team uniforms were improved just like the other girls’ team tricks. New lounge rooms were added to the soft rubber field.
“The construction started very quickly, and the stadium was completely rebuilt; it looks amazing, ”said Jennifer Sedlacek.
Taylor Sedlacek, who will play softball in Wichita State next season, attended last year’s Women’s College Championships, the final part of the NCAA Division I softball tournament, in Oklahoma City with her mother. The parents of the 14 players in the tournament were Schiller’s clients and his ex-girlfriend, Ray Yasser, who is retired.
“I thought that was a proud statement – knowing that 14 of those girls, had IX Head at work,” Jennifer Sedlacek said. “Maybe that’s how these girls got the opportunity to go far in their careers. It needed someone to defend them.”