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Weaken Title IX and the Children Suffer

(12.26.02) LULING ISD AND FORMER JUNIOR HIGH ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL SUED FOR GENDER DISCRIMINATION, ASSAULT, AND PULLING A KNIFE ON STUDENTS

(8.14.02) SETTLEMENT REACHED IN CASE AGAINST LULING ISD FOR TITLE IX VIOLATIONS IN PROVISION OF PREGNANCY SERVICES

(6.24.02) COMMEMORATING TITLE IXS 30TH ANNIVERSARY, SOFTBALL PARENTS FILE SUIT AGAINST AUSTIN ISD FOR TITLE IX VIOLATIONS

(5.13.02) AISD BOARD OF TRUSTEES TO HEAR LEVEL III APPEAL OF TITLE IX ATHLETICS GRIEVANCE FILED BY AUSTIN HIGH SOFTBALL PARENTS

(3.8.02) FEMALE STUDENT SUES HALLSVILLE ISD FOR TITLE IX VIOLATIONS REGARDING PEER-ON-PEER SEXUAL HARRASSMENT

Weaken Title IX and the Children Suffer

By Amy Magee

Coordinator, Texas Equity in Education Campaign

Some of my fondest memories from childhood come from participating in sports. Like most kids, I tried every sport at least once, although I eventually settled into soccer, cross country, and track. I enjoyed every benefit that sports have to offer. Athletes, women and men alike, know what I am talking about - the taste of competition, the teamwork, the strong, healthy body, and the exhilarating feeling when you score that goal or ace that serve or cross that finish line and you know that you have given your all. The benefits of sports are numerous and contribute to an athlete's sense of self. I may not have had the opportunity to receive these benefits, however, if not for Title IX.

Title IX, the federal law meant to ensure that both genders have equal opportunities and resources in educational programs like athletics, led to dramatic growth in women's sports. The Women's Sports Foundation reports that today one in three girls participate in sports, up from one in twenty-seven at the time the law was passed. Women's professional and amateur sports have expanded significantly as well, giving us inspirational role models like Mia Hamm and Marion Jones . Women and girls now have more opportunities to participate in better quality sports programs than their mothers did because of Title IX.

Greater opportunity does not insure better quality across the board. In fact, many sports programs are woefully deficient. In its report on the status of Title IX at 30 published last year, the National Coalition for Women and Girls gave the nation's athletic programs' compliance only a C+. The fact that more women are realizing the benefits of sports participation makes even more pressing the need for effective Title IX enforcement.

Despite the proven benefits of the law and the continued need for enforcement, Title IX is under attack. Title IX is a greatly misunderstood law. For example, many believe that the law requires that small male sports teams be cut to provide for female teams. In truth, the intention of Title IX in the athletics context is to elevate women's sports to the level of men's sports. The law provides significant flexibility in that goal can be achieved, but rigid and incorrect interpretations have perverted the law and emboldened the opposition.

President Bush has created a Commission on Opportunity in Athletics to consider scaling back the reach of Title IX. If the commission succeeds, the growth achieved in women's sports programs will stagnate at a time further growth is desperately needed, and women will be further deprived of the benefits of athletics that men take for granted.

What is even more disturbing is that the decisions of the commission will reach beyond athletics. Title IX impacts all educational programs for both genders. Both male and female students face discrimination in instruction, curriculum, discipline, and other aspects of schooling. Title IX is a necessary tool to protects all students so that they may reach their full potential. Any steps the commission takes to scale back the reach of Title IX in the athletics context will initiate an erosion of the protections your children desperately need.

Even if you have never played a sport, I encourage you to let your voice be heard for your children before the commission prepares its report the end of the month. For more information about Title IX and how to contact the commission, visit the Texas Civil Rights Project's website http://www.texascivilrightsproject.org or the commission's website http://www.ed.gov/inits/commissionsboards/athletics/.

CONTACT: 

OpportunityinAthletics@ed.gov or by mail at:

The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

ROB-3, Room 3060

Washington, DC 20202

Phone: (202) 708-7417

Fax: (202) 260-4560

The Texas Equity in Education Campaign is a program of the Texas Civil Rights Project, a non-profit education and litigation foundation, located in Austin.

December 26, 2002

LULING ISD AND FORMER JUNIOR HIGH ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL SUED FOR GENDER DISCRIMINATION, ASSAULT, AND PULLING A KNIFE ON STUDENTS

Last April, three students were sent to Assistant Principal Garrett’s office after they were caught doing simple horseplay at Shop class. Garrett used harassing and abusive language about their sexuality. Coach Tim Richter also joined in the verbal tirade. Garrett then pulled out a knife and gave it to the coach. Garrett pulled out an illegal butterfly knife and pointed it toward the boys. He then told them to turn off the lights and reenact their horseplay. The boys, very frightened, did as they were told while Garrett and Richter brandished the knives and terrorized the boys in the dark.

Today, Richard and Alice Kimball and Dennis and Julene Aldis, parents of two of the boys, filed a federal suit in Austin over the incident that alleges that Defendants Luling ISD and former Luling Junior High Assistant Principal Gerald Garrett violated federal and Texas Law for the assault and emotional distress perpetrated by Garrett.

Plaintiffs allege Garrett’s actions reflect a pattern of abusive disciplinary actions which the district allowed to occur. As a result of this incident, the school board merely suspended Garrett with pay during the summer months, hardly a punishment. He was later convicted by a jury of possession of an illegal weapon and given probation. While on the stand, Garrett admitted that he brandished the knife to teach the boys to like girls.

Plaintiffs’ sons’ education and social lives have suffered significantly as a result of the incident. Alice Kimball, one of the mothers, noted that her son "is not the carefree trusting child he used to be. This has taken away a lot of his childlike innocence. No one should have to go through this, especially a child at the hands of someone they are supposed to trust and respect and should be able to go to when needed. This has affected our whole family." The father of another of the boys, Dennis Aldis, said, "My son was horrified.... He didn’t want to go to school after that and he doesn’t want to go now. He has nightmares of being killed. His young life has been changed since this happened to him."

Title IX, a federal law adopted in 1972, guarantees equal educational opportunities, regardless of sex. This guarantee includes freedom from sexual harassment and gender stereotyping. Plaintiffs contend that the district’s failure to correct Garrett’s harassment impeded their son’s access to educational opportunities

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring the district to cease its sexually discriminatory practices. Plaintiffs are also seeking damages to compensate their sons for their suffering and continuing educational and psychological problems. Hopefully, as a result of this lawsuit, future students will not undergo the discrimination and abusive conduct these boys have.

For more information, please call Amy Magee at 512-474-5073

August 14, 2002

SETTLEMENT REACHED IN CASE AGAINST LULING ISD FOR TITLE IX VIOLATIONS IN PROVISION OF PREGNANCY SERVICES

Last night, the Luling ISD (LISD) Board of Trustees voted to approve a settlement agreement in a case filed against the district last August by Margaret Contreras and Celia Leon, both of Luling, Texas. The two young women had filed suit against the district, alleging that it had denied them an equal opportunity to attend school or receive other educational services while pregnant, in violation of Title IX. The suit specifically alleged that Ms. Contreras and Ms. Leon were denied homebound or other educational services and encouraged to leave school when they became pregnant.

As a result of the suit, Ms. Contreras has been re-enrolled in school, and is working her way towards her high school diploma. The Settlement Agreement itself provides for the following:

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall include a detailed description of its Pregnancy Related Services (PRS) program in the Luling High School Student Handbook;

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall issue to each student, upon entrance and acceptance into the PRS program, a separate brochure or booklet which lists all the details and services provided as part of the PRS program in the LISD;

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall provide its PRS students the opportunity to address through in-person meetings any questions or concerns they may have during the period that PRS program services are received;

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall provide for the assessment of its PRS program by and through the districtís annual Health Services Review. The purpose of such assessment shall be to ensure that the PRS program is meeting the needs of LISDís pregnant and/or parenting students, and shall take place at a publicized LISD Board of Trusteesí meeting;

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall create and distribute a Student Services Handbook, which will detail services, including pregnancy-related instruction, offered by the school district as well as county and state agencies;

*Starting with the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall assign the position of Title IX Coordinator, and its attendant duties and responsibilities, to an administrator other than the Superintendent. 

*The new Title IX Coordinator and the Luling High School Counselor shall receive training regarding Title IX, if available, within 12 months;

*Not later than the start of the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD will adopt and implement appropriate written policies and procedures designed to inform the LISD administrators, staff, and teachers about the potential for liability under Title IX for pregnancy discrimination and other forms of gender discrimination. These policies will be made available in a hard copy format in the LISD administrative offices, and, within 12 months, on the districtís website;

*Not later than the start of the 2002-2003 school year, the LISD shall include in the Student Handbook a section designed to inform Luling ISD secondary students and their parents about their rights under Title IX for pregnancy discrimination and gender discrimination. This information will also be made available on the districtís website within 12 months; and

*Money damages.

Attorney for Ms. Contreras and Ms. Leon, Andrea Gunn of the Texas Civil Rights Project, stated that "as a result of this lawsuit, pregnant and parenting students in the Luling ISD can finally be ensured they will be provided with equitable educational resources and opportunities. This is a great victory in the struggle against pregnancy discrimination and the egregious effects of such discrimination, including increasing high school drop-out rates."

For more information, please call Andrea M. Gunn at 512-474-5073.

June 24, 2002

COMMEMORATING TITLE IX'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY, SOFTBALL PARENTS FILE SUIT AGAINST AUSTIN ISD FOR TITLE IX VIOLATIONS

5TH LAWSUIT FOR TCRP's TEAM INITIATIVE

A Title IX project sponsored by the Texas Civil Rights Project to increase gender equity in Texas schools

Parents and former softball players from Austin, Crockett, McCallum, and Travis High Schools in the AISD filed suit today in federal court to take a stand against what they see as gender discrimination against young women in the district.

Citing violations of Title IX, the Texas Equal Rights Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment, the families seek equal treatment and benefits in the AISDís athletic program, in areas such as equitable competitive and practice facilities, equipment, localized athletic administration, game scheduling, transportation, and overall funding.

The suit stems from a prolonged battle with the district over its controversial decision to delay the construction of four softball fields promised as a part of the 1996 bond issue. In response to a complaint filed by a group of Austin High parents in January, 2002, the district recently voted, over the parents' objections, to construct two softball fields in far Northeast Austin, and denied the parents' request for a softball facility in a southern location. The two Northeast softball fields would not, the parents allege, be comparable to the district's boys' baseball stadiums - located at the Burger Activity Center in South Austin and Nelson Field in North Austin.

"The conditions these young women have been forced to play in since the softball program's inception in the AISD are terrible. The district's recent actions have only reinforced the parents' belief that female athletes are being and will continue to be shortchanged," said Andrea Gunn, Texas Civil Rights Project attorney and TEAM Coordinator.

The suit also involves claims left unresolved after the dismissal of a complaint filed by McCallum softball parents with the Department of Educationís Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 1999.

This is the fifth in a series of Title IX cases the TEAM Initiative of the Texas Civil Rights Project has filed, seeking to equalize opportunities for middle school and high school women. Despite all the benefits to girls who participate in sports (access to college athletic scholarships, self esteem, leadership skills, and lower teenage pregnancy and drug rates), young women in Texas generally still do not receive equal opportunities, treatment, and benefits in their athletic programs, according to Gunn.

Title IX, a federal statute adopted in 1972, guarantees equal educational opportunities, regardless of sex, in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Title IX applies to public schools and the athletic programs they support.

The families seek an injunction from the Austin federal court, requiring the AISD to cease its discriminatory practices and institute programs for women that are comparable to the ones for boys in the district.

For more information, please call Andrea M. Gunn at 512/474-5073.

May 13, 2002

AISD BOARD OF TRUSTEES TO HEAR LEVEL III APPEAL OF TITLE IX ATHLETICS GRIEVANCE FILED BY AUSTIN HIGH SOFTBALL PARENTS

Parents of girls' softball players at Austin High School in the AISD filed a grievance against the school district in January, 2002, taking a stand against what they saw as the unfair treatment of their daughters and other young women in the district. Tonight, at 9:35 p.m., the newly-constituted AISD Board of Trustees will hear the parents' Level III appeal of their grievance. The hearing will take place at the Carruth Administration Building, 1111 W. 6th Street, Rm. B-100, and is open to the public.

Specifically, the parents have alleged that their daughters have been forced to use inadequate City facilities and Little League fields for competition play during their regular seasons, while the boys' baseball programs in the district have two large, well-maintained stadiums for their use - one at the Toney Burger complex in South Austin and one at Nelson Field in North Austin. Although the Board of Trustees recently voted unanimously to approve a new sports complex with two softball fields in North Austin near LBJ High School, the construction of these fields has been much-delayed from the initial bond issuance in 1996. Further, the parents firmly believe that gender equity requires the school district to construct an additional southern location softball complex, comparable to what is currently available to the boys. During the grievance process, the parents have also raised a number of other Title IX concerns in areas such as athletic administration, comparable practice fields, and equitable funding.

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney, Andrea M. Gunn, who has assisted the parents throughout the grievance process, calls the level of Title IX compliance in Texas"sad and shameful, even in the state's metropolitan communities." Despite all the benefits to girls who participate in extracurricular activities and sports (self esteem, leadership skills, lower pregnancy and drug rates, and access to college athletic scholarships), according to Ms. Gunn, young women in Texas generally still do not have equal opportunities. They are continually denied the same opportunities, benefits, and treatment their male counterparts enjoy, ultimately denying young women the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Title IX, a federal statute adopted in 1972, guarantees equal educational opportunities, regardless of sex, in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Title IX applies to public schools and the athletic programs they support.

The Austin High School softball parents seek a ruling from the AISD Board of Trustees which will provide for the construction of an additional softball complex or stadium in a southern location in the City by the start of the 2003 softball season. The parents also seek from the Board a commitment to an on-going review and resolution of their Title IX concerns, primary among these being: 1) the appointment of a Girlsí Athletic Coordinator on each individual high school campus; 2) equitable softball practice facilities on each high school campus; 3) equitable scheduling of girls' JV softball games, and resolution of transportation challenges that resulted in shortened games throughout the 2002 season; and 4) equitable funding of the girls' softball programs as compared to the boys' baseball programs.

For more information, please call Andrea M. Gunn at 512/474-5073.

March 8, 2002

Female Student Sues Hallsville ISD For Title IX Violations Regarding Peer-On-Peer Sexual Harassment

Jane Doe, a student attending Hallsville High School in the Hallsville ISD, has filed a federal Title IX suit against the school district because district employees and administrators condoned and failed to remedy the peer-on-peer sexual harassment Ms. Doe suffered. The district not only failed to protect her, but further contributed to her victimization.

Ms. Doe is a student athletic trainer at the high school. In August 2000, one of the high school's best football players came into the training room for his daily taping. Ms. Doe proceeded to tape the football player's ankles as she usually did. While Ms. Doe was working, the young man used his feet to reach out and fondle Ms. Doe's breasts. He next reached down with his feet to feel Ms. Doe's pubic area. He continued to try to touch her, even after she told him to stop. The male athlete, who was nineteen (19) at the time and a senior at Hallsville High School, had had his ankles taped many times and knew the rules. On that day, he made a conscious decision to sexually abuse Ms. Doe. Ms. Doe stopped taping and asked her supervisor to take over for her.

After football practice that day, the male athlete tried to follow Ms. Doe home in his car. She became frightened of what he might do to her in the future, and decided to report the abusive and harassing incidents to her supervisor. She did this by letter on or about August 12, 2000. She subsequently met with her supervisor to discuss the incidents. She was informed that the incidents would be reported to the appropriate district authorities, but she does not know if this ever happened. The harassment continued in the form of threatening comments, stalking, and mysterious phone calls. Ms. Doe's family finally had to report these incidents to the school district themselves. No disciplinary action was taken by the district against Ms. Doe's alleged harasser - he was even allowed to finish out the football season. In fact, instead of taking appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Doe's alleged abuser and harasser, the district decided to take punitive action against Ms. Doe and her fellow female trainers by prohibiting them from being student athletic trainers for male sports, effective after the 2000-2001 football season. This decision cost Ms. Doe friends and subjected her to verbal abuse from the other female student athletic trainers whose positions were also limited.

Title IX, a federal statute adopted in 1972, guarantees equal educational opportunities, regardless of sex, in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance including freedom from sexual harassment. Miss Doe contends that the district employees and administrators acted with deliberate indifference to the harassment and that the harassment was so severe, pervasive, and offensive that it effectively barred her access to educational opportunities and benefits.

"Miss Doe is seeking a declaratory judgment that the Defendant, Hallsville ISD, violated her rights under Title IX, as well as monetary damages. Hopefully, Miss Doe will get the closure she needs to bring this horrifying and humiliating ordeal to an end. There's simply no excuse for the school district's failure to follow its own policies and adequately report, investigate, and remedy this type of sexual abuse and harassment," stated Miss Doe's attorney, Andrea Gunn of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

For more information, please call Andrea M. Gunn at 512-474-5073.

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