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9 state universities challenged over athletic opportunities for women

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:34 p.m.

Nine universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have failed to comply with Title IX, a federal law that requires them to provide equal athletic opportunities for women, a new complaint charges.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, asks the agency to investigate and address what the Women's Law Project maintains is the “historical and ongoing failure” of the schools to provide equal opportunities for female athletes.

The Women's Law Project charged that a statistical analysis shows that Bloomsburg, Cheyney, Clarion, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, and Shippensburg universities have shorted female athletes on average between 7 and 15 percent over decade between 2003 and 2013.

Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney for the Women's Law Project, said the data suggest that collectively the nine schools are short 900 athletic opportunities for women.

Three PASSHE universities—Indiana, West Chester and Slippery Rock—have been successfully sued in federal court for Title IX violations over the past two decades,

State System spokesman Kenn Marshall, however, said the schools are diligent in their efforts to uphold Title IX.

“All of our universities take their responsibilities under Title IX very seriously. Despite being faced with changing demographics in the state — which have resulted in relatively flat or even declining enrollments across the system — as well as significant, long-term financial challenges, all of the institutions have made progress toward achieving gender equity in the area of athletic participation,” Marshall said.

The Office of Civil Rights has the authority to issue recommendations to resolve Title IX inequities and can withhold federal funds when schools fail to comply.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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