Chicago Tribune: When it comes to sports and the law, Title IX looms like a heavyweight champ -- still standing after 33 years. Two recent actions reiterate the importance of, as well as the controversy around, the 1972 federal anti-discrimination law that has transformed sports programs for women and girls across America.
Exhibit A: Jackson vs. Birmingham (Ala.) Board of Education.
Roderick Jackson of Ensley High School in Birmingham contended that he was dumped as a coach in 2001 -- while keeping his job as a teacher -- because he complained that his female basketball players didn't receive the same funding and facilities as the boys' team: such things as a regulation-size court and rims that weren't bent. He tried to sue under Title IX but was rebuffed in lower federal courts.
On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Jackson was entitled to pursue a Title IX lawsuit. The majority said the law protects those who wish to sue when they suffer retaliation for complaining about gender discrimination, even if they aren't victims of the unequal treatment.
Title IX proponents cheer the expansion of the law to protect those who stand up for fairness, including a male coach of a girls' team. Critics say the ruling invites lawsuits from people suffering a beef, not a personal injustice.
And what of Jackson? He can move forward with his lawsuit in the courts, where he still must prove the merits of his case. Better yet, he can concentrate on coaching. He got that extracurricular duty back, on an interim basis, in 2003. And the rims are no longer bent.
But controversy over Title IX continues.
Exhibit B: On March 18, the U.S. Department of Education posted on its Web site a clarification of Title IX regulations. One key point is that colleges now can show they are complying with Title IX's gender equity demands based on online surveys of their students.
That sounds fine in theory. But a mass e-mail to which only a few students reply could let a school wrongly assume it is meeting the athletic interests and abilities of women on its campus.
In fairness, the clarification does note that schools have other means to fulfill their obligations to female students. Schools can meet Title IX standards by showing they have athletes in proportion to their numbers of males and females enrolled. Or they can demonstrate a history and continuing practice of adding teams for women.