Published: July 21, 2011
Colorado Springs parent Dwight Johnson found the enforcement of Title IX ironically unfair, so he's trying to do something about it.
With Johnson's backing, the American Sports Council filed suit against the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday in a Washington district court, alleging that the use of gender quotas in high school athletic programs violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Johnson became involved when the Colorado State High School Activities Association refused to grant his request to sanction boys' volleyball because the state already offers more state championships for boys than girls and it did not want to further tilt that balance and risk falling out of compliance with Title IX regulations.
Upon learning this, Johnson grew infuriated with a law that was written to ensure equal opportunity for sexes but that he saw instead being used to limit opportunities for his boys.
"This is not about boys vs. girls, this is about the law as it was written in 1972, that you cannot be discriminated based on sex," said Johnson, who participated in a conference call Thursday with representatives from the American Sports Council. "Yet we have a girls' high school sanctioned girls volleyball tournament, but we do not have one for boys."
Title IX brought about sweeping changes in girls athletics and has survived many challenges in the courts, but those arguing this latest case believe it is unique.
The biggest point of contention is not the concept of quotas, which have been upheld multiple times, but the application of quotas in high school sports where equal participation is not always realistic. ACS chairman Eric Pearson said current rules were written for college sports where scholarships can create incentives for participation for both sexes and equality is possible and necessary. In high schools, 1.3 million more boys participate in sports based not on opportunity, Pearson argues, but on choice.
"That argument has never been tried, and we believe it is a winning argument," said attorney Josh Thompson of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the suit. "There is no case precedent to say it is old hat."
Johnson, who sent a son and daughter to Colorado Springs Christian School and another son to Doherty, believes a clarification between the standards for college and high schools is essential.
"How can you expect a 50-50 percentage, if girls do not go out for sports?" said Johnson, worrying about what could happen to the 1.3 million boys who could lose spots in athletics if a strict interpretation of quotas were applied. "There'd be higher dropout rate, drug use; I could go on and on with other issues."