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CA Bill To Ban Gender Discrimination in Community Youth Athletic Programs

The California State Legislature passed a bill last month that would make California the first state to ban gender discrimination in community youth athletics programs. The bill (AB 2404) would ensure that state and county-sponsored sports programs met the same guidelines of gender equity that Title IX has required of educational and other institutions that receive federal financial assistance for the past thirty years. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and is awaiting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature.

While Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in organizations that receive federal financial assistance for education programs and activities, many after school programs are under the auspices of organizations such as recreation departments or state and local parks that may not receive direct or indirect federal financial assistance. This bill would provide supplemental state and local gender equity policies that prohibit common patterns of sex discrimination in community-sponsored athletic and educational services for youth.

The cities of Oakland and San Francisco have agreed to implement the tenets of the bill, whether or not it is made law, reports the Oakland Tribune. Los Angeles implemented its own gender equity program called Raise the Bar in 1999, after the American Civil Liberties Union filed gender discrimination lawsuits in three Southern California cities. Since then, the number of girls participating in community sports in Los Angeles has more than doubled, from 11,000 to 24,000.

Dr Sue Klein, Education Equity Director for the Feminist Majority Foundation, says, “I applaud this type of state legislation, and all the related activities to eliminate sex discrimination in these important community service programs. However, it also points out the need for a federal Equal Rights Amendment with broader coverage than Title IX, which is limited to recipients of federal financial assistance that conduct education programs and activities.”

Decades of research shows that girls who participate in sports have improved health, scholarship, and self-esteem. They are also less likely to use drugs or become pregnant. Advocates say the bill will help thousands of inner-city girls participate in inexpensive or free municipal park programs. The bill would measure compliance by reviewing allocation of funds, land use, locker rooms, supplies and equipment, game and practice schedules, coaching, qualifications of referees and umpires, and publicity experts.

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Media Resources: Women’s eNews 9/13/04; Oakland Tribune 9/7/04

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