Sunday, October 22, 2000

Athletic offerings under federal scrutiny

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As a national crackdown on discrimination in high school sports hits home in Boone County, school districts around Greater Cincinnati are stepping up their sports offerings to assure girls equitable athletic opportunities.

        It's all to comply with Title IX, the 28-year-old federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in school activities. Alleged violations of these regulations are at the heart of a recently designated class-action lawsuit filed by parents of female athletes at Boone County High School.

        Several Tristate school officials predict the suit will spur closer scrutiny of their athletic programs.

        “I'm sure there will be some rippling effect from the lawsuit,” said Mike Bankemper, athletic director for Campbell County Schools, which just added softball and girls golf to its sports lineup. “That's not necessarily a bad thing.”

        Colerain High School in Ohio's Northwest Local school district is also working to make its sports equitable, including building a new softball field last year and adding girls' golf and tennis, said Dan Moody, athletic director.

        But lawsuits like the one in Boone County tend to put such efforts in question, Mr. Moody said.

        “Female sports are important to me; they are important to our school district,” he said. “But now the public schools will be under the microscope again.”

        Some of the less popular teams — boys' and girls' — may still feel slighted, said Jeff McCarthy, athletic director and football coach at Scott High School in Kenton County.

        “Obviously, football takes more money,” he said. “But I don't think it's a bottom-line issue if they're all getting what they need.”

        How teams are funded is a key issue in the Title IX debate.

        Athletics and academics at Scott are supported through one fund-raising organization, called the Eagle Club. But the teams also have their own booster clubs to provide financial support.

        At Colerain High, sports are paid for through “pay to play” student fees, game tickets and a single fund-raising entity that supports all teams. But there, too, teams can raise money for themselves as long as it's channeled through the district booster club, Mr. Moody said.

        Allowing teams to raise their own money, however, can lead to unfair funding, said Jim Molley, superintendent of Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools.

        Most of that district's athletics budget — minus coaches' salaries — comes from gate receipts, he said. All the money goes into one pot and is divided among all the sports. The district also has one booster club that supports all sports.

        “Football doesn't get to spend what football makes. Basketball doesn't get to spend what basketball makes,” he said. “They go to support the others.”

        Besides, it's not right to ask students and parents to pick up the tab for sports teams, girls' or boys', said Dave Dierker, athletic director for Cincinnati Public Schools.

        “They don't make the German kids fund-raise their German textbooks,” he said. “If it's a school-sponsored program, then it should be funded.... Just because you pick up a tennis racket instead of a football doesn't mean you have to become a second-class citizen.

        “Unless the girls are asking for a gold-plated bus to go to the games in, we should provide the basics to do the sports.”

        Enquirer reporter Susan Vela contributed to this article.



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