On Friday, August 22, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires schools to publicly post the number of boys and girls playing sports, as well as the number of teams, onto their website. SB 1349 was first introduced by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and is intended to increase transparency in California’s school athletic departments and assist schools with Title IX compliance. This information will also help families determine if it is fair for the girls to ask for another athletic team, without filing onerous public information requests.
The WSF frequently hears from high school families that they’ve been told their school is in compliance with Title IX, and therefore cannot add more sports for their daughters, when a school offers the same number of teams for boys and girls. Title IX requires schools to provide boys and girls with the same opportunities to play, regardless of the number of teams. This new legislation will show both administrators and families whose children attend the school when it is time to add another team for girls, even when their school is offering the same number of teams for boys and girls.
We’re proud of our role in helping achieve this result. The Women’s Sports Foundation’s research was incorporated into our letters of support to California decision makers leading up to the bill’s passage. Our research report, The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports, highlights the necessity for sunshine laws such as SB 1349. The report found that nationally, schools have increased sports participation opportunities for boys at a faster pace than they have for girls over the past decade. In other words, the equity gap is widening, rather than closing, as schools continue to favor providing sports opportunities for males over females. This growing gap exists for all regions of the country, all types of communities, and all schools with differing economic resources.
We demonstrated how this research applied to California, where girls lag behind boys in high school athletic participation by a significant margin. In 2011 – 2012, California boys received 456,633 participation opportunities while girls received only 325,279 (NFHS, 2012) . 39% of California’s high school boys had the opportunity to participate in sports, while only 29% of its girls enjoyed the same opportunities. Put another way, California schools offered four sport opportunities to boys for every three they offered to girls.
In addition, California’s schools offer a much smaller percentage of their students with an opportunity to play a sport. Forty-three states offer a larger percentage of their girls the opportunity to participate in sports. It is unlikely that California’s children have less interest or ability to participate in high school sports than those in other states. SB 1349 will allow families to be good advocates for their children’s sports offerings.
The Women’s Sports Foundation applauds State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Governor Jerry Brown for the important passage of this bill. Congratulations to the advocates and supporters of the bill including the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center, AAUW, the California Women’s Law Center, Equal Rights Advocates and a broad coalition, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. And a special thank you to Decade of Decline authors Dr. Don Sabo and Dr. Marjorie Snyder.