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The quiet problem: Less attention, poor schedules for women’s play

February 15, 2012 – 10:37 PM












By Laura Pappano

This is a year of Title IX anniversary celebrations – it became law in 1972 – but even as conferences are convened (I was part of a terrific panel at Wellesley College on Monday), let’s not get weepy.

It was not as if a switch flipped and everything changed.

There is plenty of work to do and the law remains subject to enforcement and interpretation. We may have made great progress, but inequity exists – and it’s so embedded in the way we do business as to hardly draw notice.

Recently, I was driving and passed a high school sign trumpeting upcoming sports news and events. The sign announced the boys upcoming games – but mentioned nothing about girls sports, even leaving panels blank rather than, say, mention that the girl’s basketball team had just captured the league championship.

When we talk about equity and Title IX, the argument has been about access. About being allowed to participate. But 40 years later, that’s not enough.

Interestingly, the court is starting to agree. A U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th circuit) recently found that a case should go to trial that claims unfairness in scheduling girls vs. boy’s basketball at an Indiana high school. During the 2009-2010 season 95 percent of the games for the Franklin County High School boys’ team were in “prime time” – Friday and Saturday nights – drawing large crowds, cheerleaders (and making it easier to get homework done).

In Parker vs. Franklin County Community School, the court found that the practice of relegating the girls’ games to non prime-time slots results in “a loss of audience, conflict with homework, and foster[s] feelings of inferiority.”

“A packed gymnasium, cheer- leaders rallying the fans, the crowd on their feet sup- porting their team, and the pep band playing the school song: these are all things you might expect to see at an Indiana high school basketball game on a Friday night. The crowd becomes part of the game; they provide motivation, support, and encouragement to the players. After all, what would a spectator sport be without the specta- tors? Unfortunately, this is a question the Franklin County High School girls’ basketball teams must answer every season because half their games have been relegated to non-primetime nights (generally Monday through Thursday) to give preference to the boys’ Friday and Saturday night games.”

The frustrating reality? The Office for Civil Rights wrote a letter 14 years ago alerting Franklin to the problem. Nothing was done. Maybe…now?


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