Title IX: Past 40 Years
Dakota Digest - 07/05/2012
By Cassie Bartlett
Over the past 40 years, opportunities for women have significantly increased. That’s thanks in large part to the passage of Title IX—part of the Educational Amendments of 1972. Its main goal was to eliminate discrimination based on sex and allow equal participation in educational programs that receive federal funding. In this Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Cassie Bartlett investigates the changes Title IX has had on South Dakota.
Title IX doesn't mention athletics but the equality in sports offered to males and females has become the most visible way to measure whether a school is in compliance. David Sayler is the University of South Dakota’s Athletic Director. He says for colleges there are other implications to Title IX than athletics.
“I don’t think those ever get the attention that athletics does. But that’s kind of par for the course with us, part of the reason that the salaries in athletics are where they are is that we really are the front porch of the university and we’re going to get the bulk of attention with these kinds of topics,” Sayler says.
When Title IX was enacted in 1972, there were very few organized sports for women to participate in. Jo Ach is an Assistant Executive Director with the South Dakota High School Activities Association and deals mainly with girls’ athletics and equity.
“After the Title IX, the passage of Title IX, we started to get some things rolling within our state. Gymnastics came about in ‘74 or ‘75. Then we ended up, as the sports started to grow, adding classes to that. Then I think it was in ‘82-83 where we finally ended up getting volleyball to move forward,” Ach says.
Because girls had never had the opportunity to attend camps or clinics, Ach says there was a lack of skill, especially in basketball, at the initiation of Title IX.
“Scores of the games were, you know, 12 to 8, 20 to 2, you know very, very low scoring. It wasn’t because these kids weren’t trying, it was just because there were so many skills that needed to be developed in that process. As a result of kids going to camps and having those opportunities to better themselves in those skills, wow, things have certainly changed,” Ach says.
Ach says many people stepped up to get women the same opportunities as men, and one of the groups was the generation that was just getting to the age to play sports when Title IX was passed. JoElle Benson was eight years old in 1972.
“I don’t really think my parents talked about it a lot. My dad was a basketball coach and a teacher. We just started playing athletics when I was in second grade, which was probably right about that time. My age was probably the perfect age because everything was just starting up so I just kind of jumped into it. I didn’t really know the significance of the actual Title IX at that time,” Benson says.
Benson never lost a game during high school and led the Washington Warriors to back to back basketball championships in 1980 and 1981. She continued playing at South Dakota State University and eventually coached at West Central and Washington High Schools.
Like Benson, Amy Williams was fortunate to grow up in the period after Title IX was enacted. Williams is the new women’s basketball coach at USD.
“Being a part of that first generation that I guess was afforded the opportunities much more readily, it was always brought up to me to be thankful for what’s available to you,” Williams says.
Williams is the third female coach of USD’s women’s basketball team. She says some players say they can’t play for a woman, but she believes she can relate to players better and be a positive role model as a mom with a career. USD Athletic Director David Sayler agrees. He says Williams was the most qualified coach the university interviewed for the position, but being a woman also improved her case. He says it’s been difficult to meet the proportionality standard of Title IX.
“I’d say the biggest challenge with proportionality going forward is the fact that we have to manage to the numbers of the student body in general. The Board of Regents set what this school is allowed to offer as majors. I have no control over that, the athletic department has no control over that, but yet we have to manage to that. The way it sits and the way it lays out right now, USD is heavily female population as far as undergrad,” Sayler says.
Sayler says he wants to add more men’s sports to attract more male students to USD, but that only furthers the proportionality gap. Proportionality is also a challenge in high schools. The Sioux Falls School District is currently one of 12 public school districts across the country under investigation for possible gender inequities in sports. Jo Ach with the South Dakota High School Activities Association says they’re constantly looking at ways to level the opportunities.
Ach says it’s the activities association’s duty to provide schools with options, but the school districts must meet the student body’s interests. Bob Winter was a long-time basketball coach at Yankton High School for both boys and girls. He says Title IX has created nothing but positives, but lack of funding may hurt its mission.
“My fear is this, that state and national funding for schools have diminished. The support for public school systems has eroded financially. Before schools are going to add things, I have a fear they’re going to drop things,” Winter says.
Winter says schools dropping programs can be seen at the collegiate level as more and more colleges are ending wrestling programs. He says things are still not 100 percent equal among males and females and it would be easy to say things are okay. But Winter says officials need to keep working on Title IX compliance. For South Dakota Public Broadcasting, I’m Cassie Bartlett.
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