What Booster Officers Need to Know About Title IX

High School Girls on TrackAs schools continue to face shrinking budgets, funding for extracurricular activities is often first on the chopping block. Administrators increasingly rely on the hard work of booster clubs to keep these programs open to the students who benefit from them so very much. But while generous, donations from booster clubs can cause problems for school officials who struggle to remain in compliance with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions, especially when funding athletic programs. Fortunately, there are steps booster clubs can take to make sure their fundraising and support efforts meet the needs of students and coaches and are Title IX compliant. Here’s a quick rundown of the law and how it affects booster clubs:

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Educational Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities. The law requires all students have access to the same education and extracurricular benefits. Today, Title IX’s impact is seen most often in high school and college sports programs. Athletic directors are responsible for making sure all students participating in extracurriculars are granted equal access to equipment and supplies, facilities, support services, and many other opportunities.

How Does It Apply to Booster Clubs?

Generally, schools have gender equity covered when it comes to things like balancing the scheduling of desirable practice times to meet Title IX standards. But when outside support comes into play it can get messy, especially when booster officers don’t work closely with school officials. While school, district, and genre-wide clubs may have an easier time with Title IX than genre-specific clubs, working closely with school representatives and understanding the law are important steps to ensuring compliance. Program directors have been forced to turn down donations from boosters because the disparity the funding would create between boys’ and girls’ teams would be too great for the school to even out.

When a booster club donation or event is specifically directed to one team or gender, it’s on the school to compensate other teams accordingly. While this doesn’t necessarily mean matching budgets dollar for dollar, the school is required by law to find the resources to provide equal benefits to all. Athletic directors anticipate the potential impact of the donation, and look within their own programs to find a way to provide the less-privileged gender a benefit of equal weight, making sure the athletic program overall is balanced. A gift of new shoes to a men’s soccer team might mean a women’s basketball team is moved to the front of the line for new uniforms, for example.

What Can Booster Clubs Do to Ensure They Comply With Title IX?

1. Consider their turf. District or school-wide umbrellas and clubs organized by genre put the power of funding distribution in administrators’ hands, and make it easy to follow Title IX guidelines. Single-activity groups can be very successful at fundraising, but one club that outperforms all others is a recipe for Title IX disaster. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights, boys’ teams generally attract more sponsorship than their female counterparts. It’s often the case that it’s easier to whip up support for football than it is to get the whole town behind the cross-country team. While it’s understandable to want your efforts to benefit a program you are passionate about, spreading the wealth a bit may be the best way to make sure all students are legally able to benefit from your club’s hard work.

2. Communicate early and often, with one another and with school officials. A program director may have suggestions for boosters about what kind of donations or activities will have the biggest impact but create the least inequity.

3. Work together. Individual clubs can work to support one another, and even partner where they’d be more successful together. Umbrella clubs should make an effort to reach out to a varied group, to ensure all interests are represented.

4. Ask for Title IX Training. Your school district should have a Title IX officer who can break down the law, explain its benefit, and answer any questions your members may have. A close relationship with the Title IX officer can help boosters spot potential problems and make sure all members are onboard with any legally required changes to club operations or structure.

Ultimately, the best step booster officers can take to comply with Title IX is to stay informed. There are a number of great resources to turn to when in doubt, like TitleIX.info, and experts like those at the National Women’s Law Center who are eager to share their knowledge. The more booster club officers and volunteers know about the law, the better able they are to ensure their hard work has as much positive impact as possible.

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