Host: Last week the U.S. Department of Education announced that the New York City Public Schools District has agreed to take steps to create more opportunities for girls to participate in sports. The agreement comes after a complaint filed in 2010 that alleged the school district was in violation of Title Nine, the civil rights legislation that aims to create equal opportunity for girls and boys in education. As Theresa Avila reports, a host of issues make that difficult in the city.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, New York City needs more girls’ teams like East Harlem Pride.
Ambi: indistinct chatter and squeaking of sneakers on basketball court. Girl’s team runs plays.
The Pride plays basketball but this isn’t just about hoops. The city needs to create around 3,900 more opportunities for girls to play sports to comply with Title IX.
Ambi: You hear, “California” “Bring her down” “Yes!” “That was nice.” (fade in and out) (0:16)
The East Harlem Pride team is relatively unusual in the city in that they have a strong girl’s team. That’s not always the case at other schools.
GOLDMAN: I actually had no idea that was happening in New York City. (0:04)
Rachel Goldman is coach of the East Harlem Pride girl’s basketball team. She says that Title IX was front and center in her mind when she was growing up and had to play baseball with the boys. Her students hadn’t really thought about it until she explained its history to them.
GOLDMAN: They were like, oh, really? They were literally like, I was like, this is why you guys are allowed to play sports. And then they were kind of like oh when we were younger we played ball with the boys. (0:10)
The National Women’s Law Center first brought the complaint against New York City Schools and 11 other school districts in 2010. According to the center’s Neena Chaudhry, most of those cases have already been settled but New York City still hadn’t done enough for girls.
CHAUDHRY: One thing that the federal government found was that over the years there had been a number of requests by girls to add sports many of which were rejected, actually half or more of which were rejected. (0:13)
They were rejected by the Public Schools Athletic League which governs and funds sports in the city. But some schools don’t even apply. And there’s a reason for that.
ORT: Sports are very, very, very expensive. (0:03)
Suzy Ort is the principal and athletic director of Park East High School in East Harlem. She says the district’s athletic league covers the coaches’ salary but the other funding it allocates is a pittance.
ORT: I just ordered new baseball uniforms and I dropped 1,800 dollars you know basically the allocation is gone. (0:06)
One reason there may be so few opportunities for girls to play sports is because of the small schools movement that happened during the Bloomberg administration. Academics were placed front and center and traditionally large public schools were broken up into smaller ones.
And that means athletics sometimes fell by the wayside. Smaller schools have fewer resources.
The solution at Ort’s school is to partner with four other small schools in the neighborhood to form a single sports program. Ort says she couldn’t imagine not investing in sports.
ORT: They’re so motivational for students, that for us it felt like a worthwhile way to spend some of our precious resources. (0:07)
Ambi: Fade in Sound of girls playing basketball (0:04)
Brashawnda Burrus is captain of the East Harlem Pride girl’s basketball team. She says sports helped improve her grades and keep her off the street. Playing just makes her happy.
BURRUS: Just playing basketball makes me a better person. If I’m having a bad day, and it just ruined, when I come to practice, my whole day just change. And I just be happy to be here. It’s a great feeling. (0:12)
Ambi: (fade out)
Goldman says she notices her students feel a connection to the school that they otherwise wouldn’t. In feeling part of a community, their grades go up and they develop a sense of integrity and time management.
GOLDMAN: All those skills are life skills, and I think kids who play sports learn them are better team players all around when they enter the real world, not to mention that they grow up more active and healthy, usually. (0:13)
To create those 3,900 new spots for girls sports, the city has allocated a million dollars over the next four years and will be surveying girls to see if they’re getting the chances they want to play sports.
Theresa Avila, Columbia Radio News.