Illustration by Grace Schafer Perry
In the last few decades, female athletes in the United States have had widespread success in international competition. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Historically, female athletes have not had the same opportunities in sports as male athletes, especially in high school and college. Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 prohibiting discrimination based on sex in public education and activity, sought to change that. Title IX requires schools to offer boys and girls equal opportunities to participate in athletics, which includes equal levels of equipment, coaching, and academic support. Title IX is instrumental to the success of women in sports, but how are schools held accountable for staying in compliance?
Light was shed on this issue in August when Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) announced that they would be cutting ten sports teams due to budget cuts. The cuts would affect about twice as many female athletes as male athletes, a clear Title IX violation. After community members discovered this, OUSD immediately backtracked, saying that they would reconsider some of the cuts.
The State of California recognizes that schools need to be held accountable for Title IX compliance in sports. Since 2015, California law has required that any public school that offers sports must post online data on how many male and female athletes they have, and how many male and female sports teams they have.
Berkeley High School (BHS) posted its data from 2015-16 along with a brief description of the law that requires them to do so. However, the information has not been updated since.
BHS athletic director Britta Fjelstrom did provide the Jacket with this data, and those numbers reveal that BHS’s efforts to provide equal opportunities for boys and girls are improving. In 2015-16, 35.5% of female students played sports, while 42.6% of male students played. Last year, 39.5% of female students played sports, while 35.3% of male students played. Fjelstrom said she doesn’t know why these changes have occurred. A possible explanation is simply that BHS does offer equal opportunity to male and female athletes.
BHS’s athletic participation numbers are not cause for alarm, but Title IX compliance requires continual monitoring, which is why California law requires annual data posting. Fjelstrom said BHS had not posted data due to a personnel turnover, and that she will forward the data to the district to post. Compliance with this law ensures that the community is aware of how BHS is doing, and will help avoid what happened in OUSD, where a budget cut turned out to be an injustice for female athletes.