District to Resolve Two-Year-Old Title IX Complaint

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Framingham (Mass.) Public Schools will take a series of steps to resolve a complaint alleging the district violated federal civil rights laws in regards to its treatment of female student-athletes.

As reported by The MetroWest Daily News, the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education opened a Title IX investigation into alleged discrimination after receiving a complaint in April 2018. The complaint alleged that female athletes were discriminated against, and pointed to perceived staffing disparities, inadequate equipment or old uniforms, unequal opportunities and other problems. The investigation centered on whether the district accommodated female athletes’ interests and abilities, spent its booster club funds equally and denied female teams equal opportunities in its provision of equipment, game and practice time, as well as publicity and other issues.

The schools offered to voluntarily take certain steps to resolve the complaint before the investigation was completed, including hiring a consultant to conduct an external audit. The Office for Civil Rights determined that was an appropriate conclusion, and the two parties entered into an agreement on Feb. 24. Once the commitments are satisfied, civil rights officials will consider the matter resolved.

According to the pact, the district will investigate whether girls in grades 8-12 have any unmet athletic interests, to be completed no later than May 30. The district will also look into requests made to staff over the last two years by or on behalf of female students to add a particular sport or club; identify what sports for girls are available at comparable districts but not currently offered in Framingham; and review how many female students were cut over the last two years from each team following tryouts and why.

If the assessment finds that girls are interested in playing sports currently not offered, the district will add athletic opportunities as appropriate.

The district also agreed to develop a policy to regulate funding of athletic programs, including outside funding, such as booster club funding, flowing into the athletics program. If they find that outside funding disproportionately favors one gender, the policy establishes a process to make sure the other sex receives equivalent benefits.

“We want to do right by our families. If we’re doing something wrong, we need to get to work and fix that,” said superintendent Robert Tremblay, as reported by the Daily News. “That was the whole spirit of why we wanted to do an external audit.”

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