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47 Years Later, Title IX’s Impact Still Resonates Throughout Women’s Sports

Title IX was passed on June 23, 1972. In thirty-seven words, its purpose was clear: to eliminate sex discrimination in educational programs. At the time of its passage, no one could have anticipated the impact this law would have on sports opportunities for girls and women in the United States. Women and girls’ participation in sports has increased exponentially since Title IX’s passage but there are still schools that are not in full compliance with the law.

On its anniversary, we highlight the case of one of these girls – a high school student-athlete in Pennsylvania whose mother, Lin Fessler, reached out to the Women’s Sports Foundation for guidance after she discovered potential Title IX violations within her community. We caught up with Lin to discuss the situation, her research and the resources she was able to get from WSF to aid her in her process.

WSF: In your own words, please describe the situation at your school district which prompted you to contact the Women’s Sports Foundation.

LF: I was met with great resistance from our athletic committee and school board when I presented a request to start a girls’ volleyball team at our high school. I looked into our district’s sports program and was shocked at what I found. The opportunities for boys and the funding for boys’ sports, far exceeded that for the girls, with the ratio of boys to girls in the district being basically the same.

After presenting to the committee and board the statistics I had found, they were still resisting the idea of adding a girls’ volleyball team to our sports program.

I had heard of Title IX, but knew nothing about it. I started researching it online. I also contacted the Department of Education, the Department of Civil Rights and a few attorney offices to get some clarity on Title IX requirements. In my search, I came across the Women’s Sports Foundation so I gave you call too.

WSF: What were the steps you took to advocate for Title IX compliance?

LF: With the incredible help from the Women’s Sports Foundation, I first made sure my understanding of Title IX was correct and how I perceived our school measured up to the requirements of Title IX were accurate. The WSF advocacy team was a  tremendous asset in assuring me that I was on the right track. I took this information and sent an email to all the School Board members, our Principal, Vice Principal and our Athletic Director with all the information I had found regarding Title IX, how it applied to our district and how far out of compliance our district was in all three prongs of Title IX.

WSF: What was the outcome of your advocacy?

LF: The WSF advocacy team was amazing!  They know Title IX thoroughly and were more than willing to help me through this entire process. They were genuinely interested in helping me achieve this goal for the girls at our high school, and directly answered my outreach. WSF led me to documents that I didn’t know existed, which I believe lead to the final decision to place girls’ volleyball into our school budget for fall 2019.

WSF: Why is Title IX still important to girls and women in sports today?

LF: It is important because it legally requires federally funded institutions to operate in a non-biased manor.

WSF: Why is it important for girls and women to have a resource like the Women’s Sports Foundation?

LF: It is evident that The Women’s Sports Foundation is not there to just answer questions and guide you along the way. This group of individuals is passionate about supporting and advocating for girls and women who are underrepresented in the sports arena.

Do you suspect Title IX inequities at your school? Contact the Women’s Sports Foundation to learn more about the law and the steps you can take to achieve equity in your community.