TITLE IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs, including athletics. Girls wrestling can only help schools with Title IX compliance. Learn how.

Understanding Title IX compliance

* The majority of the following content was written by Peg Pennepacker, CAA, NIAAA National Faculty, ATIXA Advisory Board Member

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs – including athletics programs – that receive federal funds. Public secondary and elementary schools receive federal aid, so they must comply with Title IX. Many private/parochial secondary and elementary schools receive some form of federal funding and therefore are also required to comply with Title IX.  If a school does not receive federal funding, then they are not required to comply. 

Title IX requires schools to maintain policies, practices, and programs that do not discriminate against anyone based on sex. The Title IX Compliance Framework for Interscholastic Athletics focuses on two component areas:

  1. Effective accommodation of athletic interests and abilities (participation opportunities)

  2. Equivalence of other athletics benefits and opportunities (treatment)


In order for a school to measure its compliance with the first area, Accommodation of Interests and Abilities, it would use something referred to as the “three-part” or “three-prong test." A school only needs to comply with one of the three parts or prongs. 

  1. Substantial Proportionality.  A school may provide athletic participation opportunities for female students which are substantially proportional to the female percentage of enrollment at the school.

  2. History and Continuing Practice of Program Expansion.  A school may demonstrate a history and continuing practice of expanding its sports offerings for females in the very recent past.

  3. Fully and Effectively Accommodating.  A school may show that it is fully and effectively accommodating the athletics interests and abilities of the females in its student body. 

Schools measuring their Title IX compliance in the area of participation opportunities will need to analyze each prong in order to ascertain if they meet any one of the three prongs.   


In prong one, substantial proportionality compares the school’s female enrollment percentage to the school’s female athletic participation percentage.  If the gap or disparity is too wide (greater than 3%), then the school does not meet the first prong.

Substantial proportionality does not measure the number of sports teams for each gender. Compliance is NOT assessed by comparing the number of girls' and boys' sports offered at a school. It is the number of participation opportunities that the school provides for female students that is the measure. Schools looking to add girls wrestling will most likely be able close the gap or disparity of too few participation opportunities for girls.   
 

If schools can not show a history of continuing practice of program expansion by adding girls' sports, then adding girl’s wrestling can help schools meet this prong more effectively. 


In order for schools to begin to meet prong three, they would need to show that they have fully and effectively accommodated the interests and abilities of its female students. In effect, this requires offering every team for girls for which there is (1) a demonstrated interest in the sport by the school’s female enrollment; (2) sufficient ability among those interested to field a viable team; (3) an adequate number of competitors in the school’s geographic area of competition. The keys to compliance with this third prong are the words full and effective. The burden is on the school and its administration to determine whether there is any unmet athletic interests on the part of the female enrollment. A school will not be considered to be in compliance with this prong if there is a sport not currently offered to girls for which there is sufficient area interscholastic competition and for which there is presently significant participation at the intramural, club sport, or community sport level. 

How can girls wrestling assist with Title IX compliance?​

Girls wrestling can assist schools that are NOT in compliance with Title IX by helping them move closer to substantial proportionality, continuing or starting a history of program expansion that provides opportunities for the underrepresented sex, and showing accommodation for students interested in wrestling. Adding girls wrestling would NOT mean a boys' sport or a different girls' sport would need to be cut.

 

For schools that ARE already in compliance with Title IX, girls wrestling cannot negatively impact compliance. Another way to think about it is that because Title IX aims to have all students effectively accommodated and equivalently treated and is a non-discrimination law, there is no penalty for being even more non-discriminatory. 

 
 
 

Schools considering adding girls wrestling as a competitive sports team will do so only in the best interest of further moving toward Title IX compliance within their athletic program as well as in the best interest for the student-athletes involved.

 

How to know if a school is in compliance with Title IX

Title IX requires that schools meet at least one of the prongs of the 3-prong test to be in compliance with the law.

              

  1. Substantial Proportionality.  A school may provide athletic participation opportunities for female students which are substantially proportional to the female percentage of enrollment at the school.

To calculate this for your school, use their Act 82 data (available to the public – either on school’s website or available by request), take the number of athletic participation slots filled by girls and divide by the total number of athletic participation slots. Then compare that percentage to the percentage of female enrollment at the school. The Women’s Law Project Fair Play website also has calculated substantial proportionality for all schools that have made their data publicly available. You can use their search tool here.

 

These numbers should be the same or “substantially proportional.” If they are not, then this prong would not be met.

​​2. History and Continuing Practice of Program Expansion.  A school may demonstrate a history and continuing practice of expanding its sports offerings for females in the very recent past.​​

Has your school shown a historical pattern of starting new sports for girls in recent years? If not, then this prong would not be met.

3. Fully and Effectively Accommodating.  A school may show that it is fully and effectively accommodating the athletics interests and abilities of the females in its student body. To know if they’re accommodating interests, a school must show that it has “maxed out” its sports offerings for girls and that there are no other sports that could be offered in which there is enough interest by the girls at the school to be able to field a team. Surveys may be used to determine whether all of the sports interests of a school’s female students are being “fully” and “effectively” satisfied.

Has the school completed surveys or used other tools to assess the interest of female students? Has administration talked to the student body? To fully and effectively accommodate interests, best practice is to survey students regarding their interest. Waiting for students to approach administration in the absence of any proactive measure is not best practice and in taking that approach, this prong may not be met. Another marker for consideration on this prong is whether there is significant female participation in a sport at the club, intramural, youth, or community level – if a sport is showing good numbers and there is not an offering of that sport at the school, this prong may not be met.

If there is student interest in a new sport, then a school must show that it is fully accommodating the interests of students, or this prong may not be met. 

Resources

 

This document describes Title IX compliance in PA schools as it relates to girls wrestling

Title IX Webinar Presentation Slides

This webinar features Peg Pennepacker, CAA, speaking about Title IX and how to understand compliance.

Peg gears her information to parents but it can benefit anyone looking to learn more. The webinar includes information on how to talk about Title IX knowledgeably with schools, what the law really says, and

what it means for girls wrestling.

 

 

Additional Resources

  • Women’s Law Project (Use search feature to view whether PA school district meets substantial proportionality) - www.womenslawproject.org

  • Title IX.com (Clearinghouse for all things Title IX) - www.titleix.com

  • National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association - www.niaaa.org

  • Association of Title IX Administrators - www.atixa.org

  • Civil Rights Data Collection - www.ocrdata.ed.gov

  • NFHS Title IX course - https://nfhslearn.com/courses/title-ix (in the middle part of the screen, click your state, then click 'order course,' go through checkout - course is free, after order click 'go to my courses,' click 'begin course')