Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Title IX panel members plan minority report

By Ben Feller
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Worried about setbacks for women's sports, at least two members of a commission on Title IX plan to protest the group's work by giving a minority report to Education Secretary Rod Paige.

Title IX, the anti-discrimination law credited with opening sports to millions of girls and women, is under fire from those who say its enforcement has led to cuts in men's sports.

Paige set up a commission to suggest how to clarify and strengthen the law, but commission member Julie Foudy said the group's report is slanted and incomplete.

"A lot of the recommendations, we don't even know what the impact would be," said Foudy, captain of the U.S. women's soccer team. "To recommend things to the secretary that could impact millions of young girls is just something I can't do."

Critics of the Title IX review call it rushed and flawed. They object to the final report's tone and to some of its recommended changes about how schools could comply with the law.

The commission's co-chairman, Stanford University athletic director Ted Leland, tried to negotiate a compromise last week with Foudy and Olympic swimming champion Donna de Varona, the other commission member protesting the report.

But the changes in the final draft, which is set to go to Paige on Wednesday, were not enough, Foudy said.

The minority report could strengthen the cause of those who fear any changes will hurt women, said Rita Simon, a commission member and sociologist at American University. But it could also overshadow ideas, approved unanimously or by strong majority, that could improve fairness to all athletes, Simon said.

One disputed recommendation, for example, would give colleges more leeway to use surveys in determining if women have an interest in playing sports at the schools. Simon said the idea could spark sports interest among women and help schools respond to it. But Foudy said surveys would be used to "freeze discrimination in place" and cut access for women.

It is unclear whether any of the other 15 commission members will join the protest led by Foudy and de Varona. Actress Geena Davis, who tried to make the 2000 U.S. Olympic archery team, and leading Democratic senators will help trumpet the minority report Wednesday, while Paige and commission leaders will stick to a message of consensus in their own news conference.

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