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Bush administration taken to task over Title IX record

National Women's Law Center co-president tells Congress subcommittee that stronger oversight is needed to ensure schools comply with the law.

June 20, 2007|Ken Fowler | Times Staff Writer

Noting that the government initiated only one of the 416 complaints filed about Title IX compliance in athletics from 2002 to 2006, the co-president of the National Women's Law Center testified Tuesday before a congressional subcommittee that stronger oversight is required.

The single review was cited by Marcia Greenberger as evidence that the Bush administration has "a record substantially below that of the preceding administration" in backing Title IX, which in part protects women from discrimination in athletics. She called for congressional oversight of the Office for Civil Rights branch of the Department of Education, which has the responsibility for enforcing Title IX and other civil rights laws.

Katherine McLane, press secretary for the Department of Education, declined to be specific in responding to criticism from the law center, saying that under the Bush administration, the OCR created a policy of investigating every claim that the office receives.

She also lauded the OCR's outreach program, which is designed to teach administrators Title IX regulations.

"They try to head a lot of this stuff off at the pass, which we hope is reflected in a reduction of cases," McLane said.

Greenberger said the law center's research -- it obtained documents on all the complaints through a Freedom of Information Act request -- showed the OCR failed to respond to complaints in a timely manner.

A report on its research cited five complaints filed in Dallas, one of 12 regional OCR offices, that took more than two years to resolve and six others there that took more than a year to resolve. There was also a complaint filed in Kansas City, Mo., which the report said took more than 50 months to resolve.

McLane said the OCR resolves 95% of its cases within 180 days.

Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement that the law center's report demonstrates the harm caused to female athletes "by the administration's poor enforcement of regulations that were designed to create fairness in athletic programs."

Saturday will mark Title IX's 35th anniversary as law, and proponents and opponents appear to be equally active in calling for change.

Today, the College Sports Council and the Pacific Legal Foundation are expected to announce that they have filed a petition with the Department of Education to remove the first part of a three-prong test that determines high school compliance with Title IX.

That first part requires proportionality of athletic opportunities to the student body as a whole. Schools must comply with only one of three parts of the test, but the College Sports Council believes interest groups like the law center will sue high schools that comply by using the other two parts -- options to expand sports for an underrepresented gender, or to meet the athletic interests of an underrepresented gender.

Greenberger said she supports the continued application of the proportionality test on high schools.

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ken.fowler@latimes.com

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