Title IX: RHS takes steps toward gender equality in sports

Ridgefield High School provides equal opportunities for girls and boys to participate in sports. But when it comes to athletic benefits, girls sometimes get the shorter end of the stick because of outside funding from booster clubs.

That’s what Principal Stacey Gross and Athletic Director Dane Street told the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday, March 28 — based on a self-audit on the high school’s Title IX compliance.

Title IX is a law that requires all school districts to provide equal opportunities for boys and girls to participate in sports; this includes quality of programs, and such factors as equipment, scheduling and transportation.

“When it comes to scheduling practices and games, and coaching availability, it’s good, but some things came up,” said Street, “specifically, in regard to booster club donations and outside funding that impacts what happens with our programs and transportation.”

Booster clubs are currently allowed to pay the cost difference for teams to travel in coach buses instead of the school-funded school buses.

But that doesn’t mean booster clubs aren’t encouraged to make donations.

“That was a learning experience for all of us,” said Gross, reflecting on the audit. “It was helpful to learn that booster clubs are a huge part of Title IX.

“We don’t want to act like we’re not interested in that [donations], but just to educate them how it fits into Title IX.”

Gross and Street presented a series of recommendations for improvement: create a gender equity committee, conduct online surveys, and establish guidelines for outside funding.

Although they noted that the high school is in good shape, Gross said, “We’re certainly not calling it a day, at this point.”