Committee finds no Title IX violations in Ridgefield
RIDGEFIELD — An updated report presented to school board members this week confirms that genders are treated equally in high school athletics, but offered suggestions to ensure the program stays fair.
The report followed an earlier analysis completed last March, which was prompted by questions raised about disparities in coaching staff or donations to teams. The analysis found that the district’s enrollment, equipment, scheduling, travel, coaching and facilities, all comply with Title IX regulations.
But it suggested that the district survey all student athletes and their parents and create a Gender Equity Committee to further look into the program.
Athletic Director Dane Street said Monday that both reports have led to minor changes in the department’s budget and increased outreach with parents, coaches and team booster clubs.
“It was a very good practice for us, because it did point to a little bit of concern in a few areas, “ Street said. “(It helped us) to stay ahead of it and not be concerned with how do we get ourselves back to a point of equity, but how do we project ahead and be prepared for those before they come along.”
Street said one concern that the “self-audit” addressed was how to make sure outside sources of funding, like booster club donations, don’t create gender disparities in the quality of equipment or transportation.
Almost all of the high school’s 33 sports programs have booster clubs, he said, which help pay for transportation upgrades, parties or promotional activities for teams.
Last year and this year, the district needed to supplement transportation costs for the girls’ hockey team after a donation to upgrade transportation for the boys’ team raised concerns about fairness, Street said.
Next year’s athletic budget proposal includes a slight increase in transportation funds for girls’ soccer and field hockey to address similar concerns.
Street said the department will meet with a representative from each booster club to better understand whether any further changes need to be made.
“Even though they are separate booster clubs and they operate independently, when they are providing a service or making a donation that’s going to benefit our kids, it’s on us as a district to make sure there’s some equity there,” Street said.
The meetings will also look into making booster club fees equal for all sports.
Next year’s budget proposal will also add a coach to the girls’ golf team based on projections of increased enrollment in the sport, Street said.
The Gender Equity Committee, which included administrators, coaches, parents and students, also suggested more communication surrounding Title IX and general operations of the athletic department.
The regulations are now included in preseason coaching meetings, Street said.
Most parents and students who responded to the survey did not think there were unequal facilities, equipment or opportunities for boy and girl athletes. But, the committee believed the results still showed some “general misunderstandings” about how the programs are run.
“The takeaway from me is to try to up my game a little bit,” Street said. “Preseason parent meetings...will be an opportunity to describe a little bit more about the way things work.”