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UPSD Athletic Department Facing Title IX Investigations

            The U.S. Department of Education has opened two Title IX discrimination investigations against the Upper Perkiomen School District's athletic department. The cases, initiated eight days apart in April, are listed as sex discrimination cases on the federal agency's website.

            The first case was filed April 19 by the Office of Civil Rights, an agency inside the department that enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. It alleges that the district discriminates "on the basis of sex in its interscholastic sports at the Upper Perkiomen High School in interests and abilities; scheduling of games and practice times; the opportunity to receive coaching; locker room, practice, and competitive facilities; and publicity," according to information provided by Superintendent Alexis McGloin.

            On April 27, McGloin received a separate letter from the OCR's Region III office in Philadelphia stating that it has opened an investigation into a complaint, received March 28, that the that the district "does not provide the girls' high school softball team with practice and competitive facilities that are equivalent to those provided to the boys' baseball team."

            The district is cooperating with the OCR investigation and will produce responsive information within the timelines established by the office, according to the superintendent.

            "The district believes it is in compliance with Title IX and remains committed to compliance with Title IX," she wrote in a May 15 email.

            One criterion for the second complaint could include the location and structure of the softball field as well as the amenities for their female players. A Title IX advocate living in Red Hill, Peg Pennypacker, a retired public educator, said the litmus test in that case would be if the baseball team would be satisfied if the teams switched facilities.

            "If the answer is not yes, then you have a red flag," said Pennypacker, a national faculty member with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and a Title IX Consultant for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association.

            Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. According to Pennypacker, the law was created to promote fairness and equality for all student athletes. It covers virtually all public school districts because they receive some federal assistance and all programs in a school or college which receives that benefit.

            Investigations of this type are not unique, according to Pennypacker, a 1976 graduate of Upper Perkiomen High School. The Department of Education's website lists seven similar active investigations of high schools and college in Pennsylvania. She said school districts officials tend to behave reactively to the law.

            "Most people who run school districts struggle to understand the law," said Pennypacker, who was hired by the Spring-Ford School District in 2010 as a Title IX consultant during a similar investigation.

            Anyone can file a Title IX complaint, but parents and advocacy groups account for most of them, according to Pennypacker. The federal agency did not disclose the sources of the complaints that triggered the investigations.

            As part of the initial complaint, the OCR requested that the district submit an expansive list of data from the current and previous school year within 30 days of April 19. They include issues ranging from a list of the teams and names of athletes, an enrollment list for boys and girls, a description of the methods used by the district for determining the athletic interests and abilities of students, copies of written policies, procedures, and criteria for determining how and whether sports will be added to or eliminated from the boys' and girls' athletic programs;

            A list of all teams that have been eliminated in the past ten years, indicating when each team was eliminated and the reasons the team was eliminated;   copies of any notices distributed to male and female students informing them of the interscholastic athletic opportunities available at the school and an explanation of how they were/are distributed, the date each team at the began interscholastic competition and explain the origin of these teams;

            A current list of club and intramural sports at the School and the number of participants by sex who participate in each club and intramural sport, including what financial support the district (and any outside sources) provide to each club and intramural sport; copies of budgets for the boys' and girls' interscholastic athletic programs, by team and line item, for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years; an itemized list of what financial support was provided to each team during both academic years from outside sources such as booster clubs and parent fundraising, copies of written policies, procedures, and criteria for establishing competitive and practice schedules for each team;

            Schedules for each team, including scheduling games, forfeiting games, determining practice times, establishing pre-season and post-season competition, and hosting tournaments; the schedule of each team, the practice schedules for each team, whether any of the teams has  organized practice or competitive sessions scheduled outside the regular season; a full list of every coach and his/her status as full-time or part-time, an explanation of their background and qualifications and if they are employed by the district in any other capacity; a listing of all current locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities used by each team and the following information for each locker room, practice and competitive facility for each team.

            The second complaint requires the district to produce a list of all boys' and girls' interscholastic sports offered at the high school and the number of participants, copies of policies, procedures and criteria regarding the use and availability of all locker rooms and practice and competitive facilities used by those sports; information about those locker rooms and practice and competitive facilities, names and descriptions of each the locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, including ages ; if any substantive changes were made to those facilities over the past two years, 

            An individual investigation could take years, according to Pennypacker, a former athletic director at Perkiomen Valley, Blue Mountain, Twin Valley, Susquehanna Township and State College high schools. She said investigators will request a certain amount of information over a specific timeline, and that they may decide to make a physical visit to the district in order to speak with coaches, student-athletes and administrators.

            According to Pennypacker, the goal of the investigation is to try to enter into a resolution agreement to fix the issue. She said the ultimate penalty for non-compliance is the loss of federal money.





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