Good News in Horrific “Rape Bait” Case

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of the female plaintiff who was raped as an eighth grader by a male student in an Alabama middle school in the case Hill v. Madison County School Board. The young woman can now proceed to trial with her claim that Sparkman Middle School’s response to her reports of sexual harassment led to her being violently raped in a bathroom by a male student with a known history of violence and sexual misconduct. The case has been referred to as a “rape-bait” case in the press because of the outrageous scenario that led to the attack. A young woman who has asked to be called “Jaden” was a 14-year-old special education student when she reported that a 16-year-old male student who had been aggressively propositioning her once again asked her to meet him in a school bathroom to engage in sex. Instead of protecting the student, the aide and administrator hatched a sting plan in which the student would be used as “bait” based on the school’s sexual harassment policy. According to the policy, the “three exclusive types of evidence sufficient for the school to discipline a student for sexual harassment” were for the harasser to be “caught in the act,” physical evidence, and admission of guilt. In other words, victimized students were disbelieved as a matter of school policy. In order to try to catch the harasser in the act, Jaden was told to agree to meet her harasser in the bathroom. Teachers planned to intervene before she was harmed. The boy made a last-minute change and brought Jaden to another bathroom. He sodomized her, Jaden said. In the ruling, the court wrote that the school showed “deliberate indifference” to the girl’s allegations of sexual harassment. The plaintiff was represented by the National Women’s Law Center and Mastando & Artrip. The Women’s Law Project and Bondurant, Mixson, & Elmore filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the plaintiff in this case on behalf of thirty-three organizations dedicated to gender equality. “This decision is an important victory for students whose safety and educational opportunities are at risk when schools develop and implement biased policies like the one in this case,” says Women’s Law Project Staff Attorney Amal Bass who co-authored theamicus brief. WomenVotePA is the action arm of the Women’s Law Project. Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania.      Text: Tara Murtha, WLP Staff Photo: Federal Courthouse in Atlanta, via...

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Today is the 43rd Anniversary of Title IX!

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX   Title IX is a comprehensive federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX, established in 1972, is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs, and to provide people effective protection against those practices. The law has often been leveraged to protect and promote gender equality in schools’ athletic opportunities. Title IX requires schools and colleges that receive federal funds to give women and girls an equal chance to play sports, and to treat men and women equally when it comes to athletic scholarships and other benefits like equipment, coaching and facilities. Under Title IX, the number of male college athletes increased from 170,384 in 1972 to 228,106 in 2005-06. Meanwhile, the number of female college athletes has quintupled, from 31,852 to 170,526 over the same period. In other words, it is a success. But there’s still plenty of work to do toward achieving equality in athletic opportunities, and resources for women’s athletic programs continue to lag compared to men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, though women are 53% of the student body at Division I colleges, they are only 44% of the athletes, receive only 32% of recruiting dollars and 37% of the overall amounts that colleges spend to support their teams. A recent report published by the Women’s Sports Foundation outlined the many benefits of participating in sports—and the negative health consequences disproportionately suffered by poor women, women of color and women with disabilities as a result of having less access to sports programs.   Gender Equity in Sports in PA In 2012, Pennsylvania passed the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, a law requiring that Pennsylvania public high schools, middle schools, and junior highs annually report data on gender equity in athletic opportunities. The first year’s report revealed gender disparities that underscore how important it is that Pennsylvania schools are required to submit this data, so that students, parents, coaches and the community at large can identify possible discrimination and ensure equality. (Werecently told you about a bill that could have been used as a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. After you took action, the bill has been fixed to ensure that it does not threaten this reporting requirement.) Data from the 2013-2014 school year should...

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HB 1112 Amended: Victory for Female Athletes in PA!

We recently warned you about House Bill 1112, and asked you to take action on behalf of female athletes in Pennsylvania. We’re happy to report that your voices were heard, and the problem has been resolved. The bill’s stated purpose is to identify unnecessary, burdensome or redundant regulations governing data collection in schools, and then eliminate them. While that sounds reasonable, we noticed that the bill could have been used as a backdoor repeal of a very good law called the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year. Such reporting is necessary because, in short, Pennsylvania shortchanges female athletes. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 34% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports. Equal opportunities to play sports is not just about recreation and fitness. Research shows people who play on high school sports teams tend to get better jobs and earn higher salaries—benefits that reverberate throughout life. “In other words, there are clear and robust individual and societal benefits that appear to be generated through the current system of school support for participation in competitive youth athletics.” Rep. Rosemary M. Brown, prime sponsor of the bill, amended the legislation so it does not apply to data reporting required by laws or regulations, leaving the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act in effect and untouchable by the legislation. We’d like to thank you for speaking up on behalf of Pennsylvania’s female athletes, and thank Rep. Brown for listening to our concerns. Together, we can make real change in Pennsylvania. -Tara Murtha, WLP...

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Bad Bill Alert: HB 1112 Threatens Athletic Opportunities for Girls

Please urge your Pennsylvania lawmakers in the House Education Committee to vote against HB 1112, legislation that would suspend education data collection laws, including those related to athletics. This bill is scheduled for a vote in the Education Committee on Monday, June 15, 2015. The problem: HB 1112 could result in a backdoor repeal of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act. This act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012, created a good gender-equity law. It requires public secondary schools (grades 7-12) to report basic information about their school-sponsored athletic programs once a year. True, HB 1112 specifies that the Department of Education would only suspend data collection laws it finds unnecessary, burdensome or redundant. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not unnecessary, burdensome or redundant, but that doesn’t mean the DOE won’t assert otherwise, and repeal it if HB 1112 is passed into law. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is still necessary.  Pennsylvania schools are shortchanging girls. A random review of a few of the first year’s reports shows that school districts are failing to provide female students with athletic opportunities in proportion to the percentage of female students enrolled. Gender gaps as big as 18.72% suggest that girls are losing out on the chance to play sports. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not burdensome.  The data on athletic opportunities, such as the number of students on athletic teams and what year teams were added or eliminated, is readily available to schools. It should take only between two and six hours to fill out Pennsylvania’s reporting form. In Kentucky and Georgia, where gender equity disclosure laws have been on the books for more than a decade, school administrators take between two and six hours to complete very similar reports. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act is not redundant.  Without this law, it is difficult to find gender equity data. This law puts all of the information related to athletic opportunities for girls in one place, enabling parents, students, coaches, and others in the community find out whether their public schools are providing female athletes with the equitable opportunities and treatment they deserve, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Without this law, it would be much more difficult for a community to discover if their school’s athletic program is discriminating against girls. Repealing the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act would also increase the burden on schools, which would have to respond to possible multiple “Right to Know” requests from parents, students or community members — responses to which are due within a few days —...

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Title IX: Athletics

Nationally, women make up 57% of college enrollment, yet make up only 43% of college athletes. Pennsylvania girls between the ages of 6 and 17 engage in less physical activity than boys. Social attitudes about femininity and intentional and unintentional expectations about how girls should behave discourage and prevent girls from participating in sport…

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Fewer Resources Allocated for Women’s Sports

Pennsylvania colleges offer women fewer athletic opportunities, spend less money on women’s sports, allocate fewer resources on recruiting female athletes, and offer less scholarship money to female athletes. In the 2009-2010 year, the number of males playing sports in high school reached an all-time high, rising to almost 4.5 million. Meanwhile, the number of girls participating in high school sports has not even reached the level of male sports participation in 1971. As a result of this trend, the disparity between the number of sports participation opportunities available to male and female high school students has not only persisted, but has widened in recent years. In 2002, boys had 1.15 million more opportunities to participate in high school sports than girls. Five years later, the disparity in athletic participation in favor of boys grew to 1.3 million. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not Burdensome Other Recommendations for Action For Students: Find out if your school complies with the law. Attend women’s sporting events at your school to support women athletes. Monitor your school’s progress: for colleges obtain annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports from the Department of Education website; for secondary schools obtain annual Equity Reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or your own school’s website. For Others: Demand that schools in your area provide equitable athletics opportunities for young women. File a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against a school that you believe is depriving young women of athletic opportunities. Support local women athletes by attending women’s sporting. Lobby for federal legislation requiring middle and senior high schools to report athletic participation data in the same way colleges do. For Schools: Audit your school for Title IX compliance. Make gender equity one of the central goals in the athletics department. Encourage student and community support of women’s sporting events. Create a Title IX Equity Committee and include community members....

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Athletic Opportunities Gap has Widened

At the high school level, the gap in athletic opportunities between boys and girls has widened in recent years. In the 2009-2010 year, the number of males playing sports in high school reached an all-time high, rising to almost 4.5 million. Meanwhile, the number of girls participating in high school sports has not even reached the level of male sports participation in 1971. As a result of this trend, the disparity between the number of sports participation opportunities available to male and female high school students has not only persisted, but has widened in recent years. In 2002, boys had 1.15 million more opportunities to participate in high school sports than girls. Five years later, the disparity in athletic participation in favor of boys grew to 1.3 million. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not Burdensome Other Recommendations for Action For Students: Find out if your school complies with the law. Attend women’s sporting events at your school to support women athletes. Monitor your school’s progress: for colleges obtain annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports from the Department of Education website; for secondary schools obtain annual Equity Reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or your own school’s website. For Others: Demand that schools in your area provide equitable athletics opportunities for young women. File a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against a school that you believe is depriving young women of athletic opportunities. Support local women athletes by attending women’s sporting. Lobby for federal legislation requiring middle and senior high schools to report athletic participation data in the same way colleges do. For Schools: Audit your school for Title IX compliance. Make gender equity one of the central goals in the athletics department. Encourage student and community support of women’s sporting events. Create a Title IX Equity Committee and include community members....

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Girls Provided Fewer Athletic Opportunities

PA high schools often provide girls fewer opportunities for athletic participation than boys. In the 2010-2011 school year, Pennsylvania schools provided 170,630 athletic opportunities to boys while providing girls with only 146,057 athletic opportunities. Although high school enrollment is estimated at about 50-50 boys-girls, PA offers girls over 24,500 fewer athletic opportunities than it offers boys. Additionally, just as some colleges and universities do, many secondary schools also provide their female students with lower quality facilities and support. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not Burdensome Other Recommendations for Action For Students: Find out if your school complies with the law. Attend women’s sporting events at your school to support women athletes. Monitor your school’s progress: for colleges obtain annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports from the Department of Education website; for secondary schools obtain annual Equity Reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or your own school’s website. For Others: Demand that schools in your area provide equitable athletics opportunities for young women. File a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against a school that you believe is depriving young women of athletic opportunities. Support local women athletes by attending women’s sporting. Lobby for federal legislation requiring middle and senior high schools to report athletic participation data in the same way colleges do. For Schools: Audit your school for Title IX compliance. Make gender equity one of the central goals in the athletics department. Encourage student and community support of women’s sporting events. Create a Title IX Equity Committee and include community members....

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Less Physical Activity Than Boys

Pennsylvania girls between the ages of 6 and 17 engage in less physical activity than boys. Playing sports while young makes it more likely that girls will remain active as they age. Unfortunately, girls face barriers to engaging in physical activity, including lack of time, lack of access and opportunity, interpersonal barriers, and psychological barriers. These barriers are reflected in different levels of physical activity for girls and boys. Pennsylvania girls between the ages of 6 and 17 engage in less physical activity than boys. Too many girls are missing out on the benefits of athletic activity. Playing sports helps promote better overall mental health among teenage girls. Regular exercise builds self-confidence, promotes healthy body image, reduces stress, and lowers rates of depression among teenagers. Additionally, girls who participate in sports are less likely to take up smoking, use illicit drugs, or experience unintended pregnancy. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not Burdensome Other Recommendations for Action For Students: Find out if your school complies with the law. Attend women’s sporting events at your school to support women athletes. Monitor your school’s progress: for colleges obtain annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports from the Department of Education website; for secondary schools obtain annual Equity Reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or your own school’s website. For Others: Demand that schools in your area provide equitable athletics opportunities for young women. File a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against a school that you believe is depriving young women of athletic opportunities. Support local women athletes by attending women’s sporting. Lobby for federal legislation requiring middle and senior high schools to report athletic participation data in the same way colleges do. For Schools: Audit your school for Title IX compliance. Make gender equity one of the central goals in the athletics department. Encourage student and community support of women’s sporting events. Create a Title IX Equity Committee and include community members....

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Society Discourages Girls

Social attitudes about femininity and intentional and unintentional expectations about how girls should behave discourage and prevent girls from participating in sport—more so than any other factor. The most influential factor affecting girls’ athletic participation is gender norms. These are social attitudes about femininity and intentional and unintentional expectations about how girls should behave that discourage and prevent girls from participating in sports. The consequences of this lack of exercise negatively affect the health of PA young women. 22% of PA girls are overweight or obese. A recent survey shows that 10% of female teens/young adults reported considering suicide in a 12 month period, as compared to 2% of males of the same age. SOLUTIONS Take Action Contact Your Elected Representatives Pressure on politicians matters. Find your state representative – click here Find your congressional representative – click here Become a County Leader Take the lead in your community. Check out these resources to learn more about the gender wage gap Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012) Women’s Law Project (WLP) Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? Women’s Law Project (WLP) Title IX Requirements Not Burdensome Other Recommendations for Action For Students: Find out if your school complies with the law. Attend women’s sporting events at your school to support women athletes. Monitor your school’s progress: for colleges obtain annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports from the Department of Education website; for secondary schools obtain annual Equity Reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Education website or your own school’s website. For Others: Demand that schools in your area provide equitable athletics opportunities for young women. File a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against a school that you believe is depriving young women of athletic opportunities. Support local women athletes by attending women’s sporting. Lobby for federal legislation requiring middle and senior high schools to report athletic participation data in the same way colleges do. For Schools: Audit your school for Title IX compliance. Make gender equity one of the central goals in the athletics department. Encourage student and community support of women’s sporting events. Create a Title IX Equity Committee and include community members....

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Solutions for Title IX

Schools must take steps to comply with Title IX. Schools must comply with the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment’s requirement of equality under the law and prohibits denying opportunities to participate in sports based on sex. OCR must increase compliance audits and more effectively and efficiently process…

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