Civil Rights Nonprofit Organizations Reach Agreement with the Vista Unified School District Regarding Gender Equity in Athletics
Agreement to Create a Level Playing Field for Girls
Vista, CA (May 25, 2021) — The Vista Unified School District is focused on their commitment to equity as a district value. To that end, the District has made and will make significant changes to help achieve gender equity between girls’ and boys’ sports at Vista High School (VHS) by providing equal athletic opportunities, treatment, and benefits under Title IX, and more.
Title IX, the longstanding federal law, requires all schools receiving any amount of federal financial assistance to maintain gender equity in their athletic programs—and is applicable to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges and universities. Title IX was enacted 49 years ago, yet gender inequities persist across the state and the country.
The California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) and Legal Aid at Work (LAAW)’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports project communicated with the Vista Unified School District (District) on behalf of their clients regarding the inferior facilities, equipment, and treatment softball players were provided compared to many of the boys’ programs, and also detailed many other sports inequities at the school.
CWLC and LAAW worked with the District to address these issues throughout the school, prompting the District to make substantial changes, including adding additional teams so that girls have the same opportunity to play at VHS.
We are proud to report that the District has also agreed to build upgraded softball dugouts and bullpens, and a scoreboard, and replace the bleachers, among other improvements in the softball programs, as well as other athletic offerings for girls at VHS and throughout the District. In fact, new softball field construction has already been completed at Rancho Buena Vista High School and the District is just weeks away from completion of the new softball field at Vista High School. The District will also conduct ongoing Title IX trainings for all school administrators and coaches within the District to make sure that gender equity is a common language and a continued commitment at all its high schools, supporting a systemic shift toward equity for girls.
Under Title IX, the gold standard for compliance is a school offering girls the same proportional opportunities to play as their overall enrollment at the school. Studies and surveys show girls want to play just as much as boys. And girls deserve the life-enhancing benefits of athletic participation. Across the United States, girls are afforded one million fewer opportunities compared to boys at the high school level. This issue can be readily addressed by asking girls which sports they want to play, offering the sports in which they have expressed an interest, adding levels to existing sports in high demand, and regularly assessing the balance of student participation.
“We are pleased that Vista Unified has agreed to take the steps needed to ensure girls have the same opportunities, treatment, and benefits as boys,” said Amy Poyer, Senior Staff Attorney at CWLC and Title IX co-counsel. “This resolution shows that even in challenging times, during a pandemic, schools can and must prioritize providing an equitable educational environment for female and male students alike.”
With this agreement, Vista Unified can become a leader in sports equity among CIF San Diego Section (CIF-SDS) schools. On average, each school in the CIF-SDS needs to add 47 participation opportunities for girls in order to comply with Title IX. That means, on average, 47 girls at each school in the CIF-SDS are missing out on the important benefits of playing sports.
“Vista Unified is committed to implementing our value of equity throughout the District. Athletics is a key aspect of our instructional program, and we are working diligently to ensure that female athletes have the support and resources they need to reach their full potential. Our two new multi-million dollar softball fields at Rancho Buena Vista High and Vista High are a testament to our commitment to equity for our female athletes,” said Dr. Doyle, Superintendent of the Vista Unified School District.
“Having equal opportunities to play sports is so important for girls, starting at a young age and continuing throughout their life,” said Kim Turner, Director of Legal Aid at Work’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports project at LAAW, and Title IX co-counsel. “Girls who play sports get higher grades, have better physical and mental health, and make higher wages as adults. 95% of female executives of Fortune 500 companies played sports growing up.”
CWLC and LAAW share their clients’ comments about the agreement:
“There is no difference between the level of dedication, intensity, or perseverance that female and male athletes give to their sports. We push ourselves just as hard, and we want to succeed with our team just as much. There shouldn’t be any difference between the support and opportunities we get from our school athletics programs, either.”
“Finally, women’s athletic programs will receive equitable treatment and resources as the men’s programs. These young ladies need to feel the same level of support and commitment as their counterparts, and this is a huge success for the community. We couldn’t be happier with the results of this challenging process. We look forward to watching Vista Unified step into a new relationship with women’s athletics and the wonderful female students it represents.”
This settlement represents a collaborative resolution that will help level the playing field in athletics by providing equal athletic opportunities, treatment, and benefits for female athletes at VHS.
California Women’s Law Center
The California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) is a non-profit law and policy center whose mission is to create a more just and equitable society by breaking down barriers and advancing the potential of women and girls through impact litigation, policy advocacy and education. CWLC serves as an expert resource for girls, parents, coaches, administrators, and policy makers who want to ensure girls get their fair chance to play. We overwhelmingly focus our efforts on assisting low-income women and girls and communities of color. More information about CWLC’s work can be found at www.cwlc.org.
Legal Aid at Work
Legal Aid at Work is a nonprofit legal services organization that has been assisting low-income, working families for more than 100 years. Its programs conduct outreach, provide direct legal services to thousands of people each year, engage in litigation, and advocate for policies that strengthen the rights of low-income people. More information about Legal Aid at Work can be found at www.legalaidatwork.org.
LAAW’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports project spurs schools and parks and recreation departments to treat girls equally on and off the field. Focusing particularly on girls of color and girls who live in low-income communities, this work promotes the health, educational achievement, and future employment opportunities of girls in grades K-12. More information about Fair Play for Girls in Sports can be found at www.fairplayforgirlsinsports.org.