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Celebrating Title IX 40 Years Later

BY ROBERT B. GARDNER, NFHS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AND RICK WULKOW, NFHS PRESIDENT 

 

This issue completes our fifth year of publishing High School Today for superintendents, principals, athletic directors and school board members. We hope you have enjoyed receiving this publication every month during the school year. We always welcome your feedback – visit us at www.nfhs.org/hstoday and let us know how we’re doing.

 

In our first issue five years ago (September 2007), Peg Pennepacker wrote our lead article on the 35th anniversary of Title IX. As we now look forward to the 40th anniversary next month, we are pleased to have Peg back as the author of our lead article once again.

 

This issue contains four additional articles on Title IX – one from the viewpoint of a superintendent, one looking at the female pioneer leaders in state associations, another profiling an outstanding female athlete from the 1970s (Geri Grigsby) and Lee Green’s legal article on Title IX compliance.

In the school year before Title IX was passed in the summer of 1972, there were 294,015 girls participating in high school sports, compared to 3.6 million boys. By the end of that decade, 1.8 million girls were competing in high school sports and today – 40 years after the passage of Title IX – that number has climbed to an all-time high of 3,173,549.  While the rate of growth has slowed from the early Title IX days in the 1970s, the number of girls participating in sports has increased every year since 1988. While there are still 1.3 million fewer girls than boys in high school sports, the gap has closed remarkably from the 3 million deficit 40 years ago.And if the sport of football (1,134,000) was removed from the boys participation totals, the numbers would be almost identical. In those sports in which both boys and girls participate, the chart indi­cates that numbers are pretty similar in most cases.

In addition to the opportunities that Title IX has provided for girls to participate in high school sports, that landmark law was also a springboard for women to become involved in high school coaching and administration.

 

Our feature on the women pioneer leaders in state high school as­sociations on page 16 provides a glimpse of the tremendous contri­butions that these individuals made to the growth of girls programs in the 1970s. Although legally the door had been opened with the passage of Title IX, these trailblazers in state offices were met with challenges. First and foremost, perhaps, was the notion that “girls don’t play sports.” Dorothy McIntyre, who blazed the Title IX trail in Minnesota, offered the following pre-Title IX perspective:

 

“That attitude (that girls don’t play sports) germinated in the 1920s and 1930s when a national attitude swept the country that the lives of girls and women would be better – and more healthy – if they played for fun and not with the pressure of winning, intense coaching and excited crowds … Girls sat on the sidelines and watched. The Girls Athletic Association and its recreational activities were deemed to be ‘sufficient’ for girls, or perhaps they could be cheerleaders for the boys teams.”

Certainly, we are indebted to Dorothy and many others noted in the article for their tireless efforts in kick-starting statewide programs for girls – led by the incomparable Ola Bundy of Illinois, dubbed the “First Lady of America’s Girls Interscholastic Athletics.”

 

There were trailblazers at the local level as well. In 1968, Barb Twardus was one of the first female athletic directors when she began her 31-year career for the Seattle Public Schools. In 1967, Alice Bar­ron became the first female administrator for the Jefferson County Schools in Golden, Colorado, and built the girls program from no sports to 11 by the time she retired in 1989. Both Twardus and Bar­ron are deservedly in the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame.

 

We urge all leaders in high schools today – superintendents, prin­cipals, athletic directors and school board members – to promote eq­uity and fairness as a priority in our schools across the country. We’ve come a long way, but there are many more opportunities ahead for girls to continue to make their mark in high school sports.

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