Feds clear Orange schools in Title IX complaint

Posted April 28, 2010 10:44 a.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2010 10:50 a.m. EDT

— Federal officials have closed a complaint alleging that Orange County Schools was shortchanging girls athletic teams by providing less aid to their coaches than to coaches of boys teams, according to the district.

The U.S. Office for Civil Rights investigated gender equity in the district's athletics programs for 18 months before finding a complaint about the girls athletics programs to be groundless, officials said.

“I can’t imagine any school system in America going through an investigation this intensive and coming out with a cleaner bill of health,” Superintendent Patrick Rhodes said in a statement. “We are very pleased with the results. We just wish it hadn’t taken so long to reach a conclusion we were confident would be made.”

The complaint stemmed from the firing of Cedar Ridge High School volleyball coach Laurie Calder-Green in October 2008 after she yelled and swore at players. She remained as girls basketball coach and as an English teacher at the school.

Parents claimed in the complaint that Orange County Schools discriminated against high school girls and their coaches by paying the coaches less, providing less qualified coaches and not working to recruit and retain their coaches, when compared to coaches of the boys’ teams.

Federal investigators reviewed the athletic programs at both Cedar Ridge High and Orange High School and found them to be in full compliance with the requirements of Title IX, which requires gender equity in all educational programs, officials said.

In addition to coaching, the investigators looked at the availability of medical personnel and assistants for boys and girls teams; health, accident, and insurance coverage; the availability and quality of weight training facilities; the availability and quality of conditioning facilities; and the availability and qualifications of athletic trainers.

“We note that the complainant disagrees with the district’s termination of a particular coach. However, termination of one coach is an insufficient basis on which to find that the district has denied girls equitable opportunities with respect to coaching, and there is no other evidence that supports such a finding,” investigators wrote in their final report.

In fact, investigators found that the only statistical disparity favored girls teams in 2007-08, when their coaches were paid more than coaches of boys teams when compared to the proportion of students participating in athletics by gender, excluding football. They noted, though, that this disparity didn't deny boys equal athletic opportunities.

Investigators also found that the ratio of coaches to athletes in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 favored girls teams, but again, the disparity didn't result in the denial of equal athletic opportunities for boys.

“This confirms that our athletic programs are doing remarkably well in assuring equitable treatment under Title IX, and that our continued commitment to gender equality has resulted in athletics programs that are in full compliance with federal law," Tony McKnight, vice chairman of the Orange County Board of Education, said in a statement. "We will continue to work hard to ensure that all of our programs provide equal opportunities for our students.”