For the Ottawa Hills Board of Education, dealing with Title IX compliance issues has been a year long process. In the end, the district added two new girls’ sports despite tough economic times.
The board had been approached over the last several years by both the girls’ lacrosse team and the Ottawa Hills Girls Club Soccer team, asking for varsity status.
After the soccer team went before the board again, last fall, board members vowed to complete a Title IX Compliance Study. One year later, the district discovered it was not in compliance.
The review found the district offered seven varsity sports for boys and five for girls. Additionally, cheerleading and dance team were listed as varsity sports on the district’s website although the Ohio High School Athletic Association does not recognize them as varsity sports.
According to the report, girls made up 48 percent of the school's enrollment during the 2009-10 school year and 46 percent during the 2010-2011 school year. But, according to the report, females only made up 39 and 37 percent of the school's sports participation rates in the same years.
Dr. Kevin Miller, superintendent, said the district would have to add 27 to 54 slots for girl’s sports to be in compliance. The last girls' varsity sport added was softball during the late 1970s. In the end, the report found the district should add at least one girls’ varsity sport.
In October, the board decided to give both lacrosse and soccer varsity status, although lacrosse is currently not recognized by the OHSAA because not enough schools have varsity teams.
School Board President Gary Wilson said, after the meeting, the board wanted to be in compliance with Title IX. He said the board estimates it will cost approximately $34,000 - $35,000 for the two new sports.
“We will look at ways to cover those costs,” Wilson said. “We will have to increase the pay-to-participate fees in order to help cover it.”
The district currently offers an all-inclusive, one-time fee for all activities as well as a separate fee plan for each activity. The all inclusive fee for the high school is $200. Individual fees for the high school sports programs, including dance team, are currently $110. Fees for other programs at the high school range from $20 for French Club, Spanish Club, Quiz Bowl, Model UN and Jazz Band, to $60 for cheerleading and chess club.
Miller said the district has always wanted to be in compliance, but budgetary woes have kept adding anything “extra” out of reach. Adding a sport means additional costs for coaches, uniforms and travel for the teams.
In 2011, the district cut spending by $936,000 by laying off employees and taking away low enrollment classes including wood technology, architectural drawing, and drafting classes.
“The district will do what is necessary to be in compliance with Title IX,” Miller said. “In the past few years, we have had to make cuts that have impacted our curricular offerings. The board has been working hard to meet Title IX compliance while at the same time being fiscally responsible.”
Miller said the district never considered taking away varsity status for cheerleading or dance just because the two sports are not recognized by the OHSAA. Unrecognized sports do not count towards Title IX compliance.
“The recognition of an activity or sport as a "varsity" sport has nothing to do with recognition by the OHSAA,” Miller said. “It is a school district’s choice. It doesn't matter if it's cheerleading, dance team, Challenge Crew, Model United Nations, band, Choraliers, or Volunteer Focus. Each activity serves our students in a different way. The kids who take part in these activities enjoy their participation as much as someone who plays on a sports team. To consider their involvement ‘less important’ because there is no win-loss record attached to their chosen activity is skewed thinking in my opinion and is not reflective of our goal to help develop well rounded individuals.”