Caving In

In October, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) announced its decision to add girls’ sand volleyball at the high school level to comply with proportionality.

Little did we know — but probably should have guessed — that the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) was behind this sudden addition. The Deer Valley Unified School District in Arizona is one of 12 districts named in the NWLC complaint bonanza filed with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Predictably, the group cited disproportionate numbers as evidence that the district is not providing girls with enough opportunities.

DOE officials have not yet reached a verdict on whether the school district is offering enough opportunities because they are still conducting their investigation. Yet, as the Arizona Republic reports, “The charge surprised school officials and students, but still, the district went into action.”

All of this action, and for what? Some complaints alleging discrimination have been thrown out by the DOE and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the past because no evidence turned up; it’s possible the same will happen this time. And, as we are trying to prove with our current lawsuit filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the three-prong test has no business in high schools because it violates the guarantee of equal protection and equal treatment of people regardless of sex.

To put it bluntly, the school district immediately caved into NWLC activists who are obviously pushing their own quota agenda that inevitably favors discrimination based on gender . With no factual support proving inequalities or knowledge of whether interest among females even existed, administrators went ahead with the sand volleyball (and badminton) game plan. Perhaps a fear of mounting pressure and eventually lawsuits caused some Arizona school administrators to throw all logic aside.

After initially acquiescing to groups like the NWLC, a complicated, labor-intensive, money losing slippery slope begins. In this case, the school has to find even more programs to add because adding sand volleyball isn’t enough to achieve proportionality. The same Arizona Republic article explains the new problem: “while indoor volleyball and sand volleyball are two separate disciplines, most of this season’s sand volleyball players also play on their school’s indoor team, so the growth of female participation numbers is minimal.” Since the NWLC has made it clear that it will not be satisfied until the gender ratio in the overall student population equivalent to that of the athletic population, Deer Valley Unified will have to keep adding girls’ teams and/or resort to cutting boys’ teams to meet that requirement.

The danger with the proportionality approach is that it doesn’t necessarily pinpoint inequalities. It’s quite possible that all girls who want to play sports are already involved, but it just so happens that there are more boys overall who want to play. Additionally, when schools act upon disproportionate numbers, they often forget to gauge students’ interests to determine new sports. If Deer Valley Unified had surveyed their students, they may have been able to predict that the girls interested in sand volleyball are comprised of mostly already-active indoor volleyball players.

It’s time schools stop heeding the demands of activists whose policies favor numbers games over student interest and the realities on the ground.

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