Complaint filed with Office of Civil Rights against Ballinger ISD
BALLINGER — Volleyball has been a hot topic in Ballinger for the last couple of years. Recently, many parents have been determined to see the school district create a volleyball program. The issue is complex. Not only is the money involved substantial, but there is the issue of the level at which the program will start. At the January 2020 school board meeting, Ballinger ISD Athletic Director and head football coach Chuck Lipsey addressed the prospect of adding volleyball, but not at the varsity level immediately, “We should play 2 to 3 years on a sub-varsity level. We don’t want to throw the kids into a varsity schedule. If we do, we’ll have kids quit because the team will always be getting beat.”
At that same meeting, BISD Superintendent Jeff Butts said that the Ballinger Youth Sports Association was going to start a volleyball program this fall, which will help with teaching the kids the fundamentals and help with their conditioning, “I’m very encouraged that BYSA is going to get volleyball started."
Complaint filed with Office of Civil Rights
The pursuit of volleyball has now been taken to a higher power with a complaint being filed with the Office of Civil Rights. A letter sent to board members by Butts addressed the investigation:
"There has been a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that relates to us not having volleyball. There is currently a deadline to answer the complaint by June 11th. We have asked for an extension of this deadline. We are in the process of gathering the information that the OCR requested. I am hoping that the OCR will extend the deadline to allow us more time to gather this information. I had our Title IX attorney run our 2019-2020 numbers last year when the volleyball issue was first brought up and we were in compliance. I have contacted our attorney and we are working on the documents that the OCR is asking for us to complete and submit. I will keep you updated on this."
Title IX, also referred to as Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, clause of the 1972 Federal Education Amendments, was signed into law on June 23, 1972. It states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The basis of the complaint
The complaint revolves around the allegation that Ballinger ISD does not provide as many opportunities for female athletes as they do male athletes. Girls have six sports to participate in at Ballinger High School: cross country, basketball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis. Cheerleading doesn't qualify as a sport. Boys have seven sports: football, basketball, baseball, track and field, cross country, tennis and golf. Many parents feel that football adds a greater opportunity for boys to participate in school sports than girls.
The National Women's Law Center's (www.nwlc.org) website mentions Title IX specifically, "Since Title IX became the law in 1972, we’ve been working nonstop to make sure girls are treated fairly in school athletics programs. A federal law, Title IX, makes it illegal for schools to discriminate against students because of their sex. This means that girls have the same right to play as boys. We take to the courts to ensure that schools provide female athletes with equal access to athletic opportunities. We fight back when schools try to weaken their enforcement of Title IX protections. We advocate for federal policies to make sure schools are reporting accurate numbers on their student athletes so we can hold them accountable to the law. We’ve come a long way already ― and we’ll keep working just as hard until all girls have a fair chance to reap the many benefits of playing sports."
Just Play Now (www.justplaynow.org) also addresses the issue on their website:
"As applied to athletic programs, Title IX requires schools to:
Offer male and female students nondiscriminatory opportunities to play sports;
Treat both male and female student athletes fairly, offering female athletes the same treatment and benefits offered male athletes; and
Award college athletic scholarship money in proportion to the number of female and male athletes at the school.
A Note on Funding
The budgets for female and male teams do not have to be equal: sport-specific cost differences are allowable (for example, boys’ football uniforms are more expensive than girls’ volleyball uniforms). But, benefits must be equal – the football uniforms may not be new every year and top quality while the volleyball uniforms are several years old and made of shoddy materials.
Where benefits are not equal, a school may not use the excuse that it does not have enough money to provide better equipment, supplies, facilities, etc. for female teams. If the boys’ athletic program receives greater benefits but the school has limited funds, the school has only three choices to comply with Title IX:
Increase the benefits for girls;
Decrease the benefits for boys; or
Do some of both.
School district maintains that it complies with Title IX
The district has maintained that it does provide equal opportunities for boys and girls to participate in sports. At the board meeting, Butts pointed out that the district's lawyer also felt that the district was in compliance with Title IX.
According to the letter, Ballinger has until Friday, June 11, to answer the complaint. As the letter shows, Butts is asking for an extension. The process for investigating the allegation could take several weeks. Until this point, it's simply been parents and others within the community divided into those who believe the school is in compliance, and those that don't. Now, it could be the Office of Civil Rights that makes the final determination.
One issue concerning some parents is the much-needed updating of areas within the school, such as the science lab. The parents worry that the cost of volleyball could inhibit the renovation of those areas.
Adding volleyball would cost around $200,000, according to the district. This includes a one-time cost of $43,350, which would include the net system and striping four gyms. Accident insurance would run the school $13,350. Add to those numbers the cost of uniforms, paying officials to officiate games, a head coach and assistant head coach salary, and the numbers quickly climb. At the January 2020 board meeting, the hiring of a volleyball coach was discussed, with the common consensus being that they'd hire a full-time head coach to get the program off the ground, rather than a teacher/coach with a coaching stipend. This would include the 3 or 4 years of play at the sub-varsity level (junior high and JV).
Some schools have addressed Title IX issues by opening up their football program to girls, thus providing an equal opportunity for girls to participate in sports. Currently, some of the small schools around the area that provide volleyball are Miles, Olfen, Veribest, Bronte, Paint Rock, Coleman, Water Valley, Rochelle, Wall, Sonora, Reagan County and Brady.
Butts was sent an email regarding the investigation. He replied, "We have received a notification from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that a complaint has been filed against the District. The complaint alleges that Ballinger ISD discriminates against female students by not having volleyball. We are required to submit certain information to the OCR by June 25th. The initial deadline was June 11th but they have extended the deadline until June 25th. I am in the process of gathering the information to send to the OCR for their review."