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Survey finds only 38% of residents have knowledge of 1972 law banning sex bias in school.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Barlow High School's softball team celebrates a home run in a 2022 game. Fifty years after Title IX was signed into law prohibiting sex discrimination in programs run by institutions that receive federal funding, 72% of Oregonians who are at least somewhat familiar with Title IX believe the law has been a major factor driving the growth of women's sports.

Though Title IX applies to all aspects of education and athletics, the impact on athletics has been the most visible.

But among women who participated in school-organized athletic teams, only 36% said that in their experience, their teams were given the same resources as the boys' teams at the same school.

Even among women who entered school after Title IX went into effect, fewer than 40% believed the resource distribution was equal.

The survey, conducted by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, a nonpartisan opinion research group, asked Oregonians about their knowledge and opinions on Title IX, as well as their experiences playing for or watching boys and girls athletics.

Many respondents cited inferior fields, equipment and coaches provided for girls' teams.

That issue has prompted a handful of lawsuits across Oregon in recent years.

In Portland, members of Grant High School's softball team sued the school and district last year, after the $158 million renovation added a turf baseball field but eliminated initial plans for a turf softball field. The plaintiffs settled with Portland Public Schools last fall, agreeing that the baseball team would not use their new field until a new softball field was completed, Capital News Service reported.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating the Gresham-Barlow School District for possible Title IX violations related to the high school's baseball and softball facilities, Pamplin Media Group reported.

The same federal office is requiring the Seaside School District to upgrade softball facilities by the end of June 2023 as part of an agreement stemming from complaints made by parents, Seaside Signal reported.

Other survey respondents said that while funding from the schools may have been equal, boys' sports — football in particular — tended to receive more media coverage, support from booster clubs and sponsors, and revenue from ticket sales.

Tina Castañares, a 73-year-old Hood River County resident, said she is "of an age … when high school sports played by girls was competitive in the sense of playing against other schools' teams, but would never have been covered in a newspaper … even a championship."

For local teams in her rural area, "I think we've come a long way in terms (of) equity/parity of media coverage," Castañares said via email.

But, Castañares said, she's more concerned with gender equity in other parts of educational systems, "like STEM programs, speech and debate, chess, just plain academics in general" — all of which also fall under Title IX.

Only 38% of Oregonians said they were very or somewhat familiar with Title IX.

A 32-year-old woman who asked not to be named said that when she attended classes in the Hillsboro School District, boys teams got better practice times and locations, but uniforms and equipment seemed fairly equal.

Boys teams were "better-attended, got more coverage in the school media, and then the parent booster groups did more to support the boys teams," she said, noting the high school's daily news report gave more attention to the boys.

In high school, her awareness of Title IX boiled down to "men and women were required to have the same number of sports." The law does not require the same sports or number of teams for men and women, but rather proportional opportunity, which can look different depending on the size of teams and makeup of the student body.

The woman said that in recent years, she's mostly only heard about Title IX in the context of transgender students, but isn't sure how Title IX plays into trans issues.

A majority of Oregonians believe Title IX should protect transgender students from harassment, but fewer believe trans students should be allowed to play on sports teams that match their gender identity.

In the survey, older Oregonians were more likely to say they were familiar with the law than Oregonians who finished high school in the past decade.

A Marion County man who was in high school when Title IX was first implemented said he always supported the concept behind the law.

"There was some grumbling regarding the extra effort of outfitting and fielding the added women's teams. However, history has proved it was the right move," the man wrote in his survey response. Women's sports have grown at local, collegiate and professional levels.

"The woman athlete today is far stronger, quicker, faster and (more) athletic than she was 'back in the day,'" the man wrote, adding that women's games are "every bit as exciting to watch as the men's, their fan base just as rabid. Success by anyone's definition, I'd say."

Conducted in May, this online survey of 1,674 Oregon residents 18 and over has a margin of error of 2.4%. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age and education.

More than a penny for your thoughts

The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is committed to the highest level of public opinion research. To help obtain that, the nonprofit is building a large research panel of Oregonians to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.

Selected panelists earn points for their participation, which can be redeemed for cash or donated to a charity. To learn more visit oregonvbc.org/about-the-panel.


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