Title IX complaint resolution calls for Morton school district to take steps toward guaranteeing equity
The Morton school district has agreed to take steps toward better equity in its athletic programs, resolving a Title IX complaint filed by former Potters softball coach Gigi MacIntosh.
An investigation of MacIntosh’s complaint by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) concluded Morton Unit School District 709 did not have adequately equitable athletics programs for boys and girls, but determined the concerns could be addressed through the resolution agreement.
“If you brought in brand new microscopes to a science class and said, ‘These are only for the boys to use,’ and girls are going to use the substandard ones or old ones, the community would be in an uproar,” said MacIntosh, who left the Morton district in 1999 and retired from teaching in 2016. “So why do we continue to allow this in the athletic classroom when we wouldn't stand for it in the academic classroom?”
Terms of the agreement require Morton to provide equity and compliance training for coaches and administrators, and submit assessments of facilities, equipment and funding for boys and girls sports programs. The district also will survey students regarding their athletic interests.
In a statement responding to the investigation, the district stressed there was no “finding” of inequity and noted the agreement with the OCR is not “an admission of liability, non-compliance or wrongdoing” on its part.
MacIntosh thinks that’s merely a matter of semantics.
“It does say in there that by going into this agreement, you're not admitting non-compliance or you're not admitting wrongdoing. However, you wouldn't be going into this agreement if there weren't things that aren't equitable,” she said.
The resolution went into effect on March 9 after it was signed by Superintendent Jeff Hill. He declined to offer additional comments beyond a district statement.
The complaint filed by MacIntosh alleged Morton High School and Morton Junior High did not provide equitable facilities, equipment and funding for the girls sports programs in violation of Title IX.
Before OCR concluded its investigation, the district requested the resolution and OCR determined an agreement was appropriate.
Among its conclusions, OCR noted “a disparity in the quality and maintenance of the facility that the District provides for the girls’ softball team, and that the District’s provision of equipment and supplies favors male athletic participants.”
In its statement, Morton said it is “committed to providing equitable programs for boys and girls and will work cooperatively with the OCR to provide the information that is evidence of that equity.”
MacIntosh said the problem came to her attention two years ago when she was alerted to disparity between the Westwood Park baseball facilities and the softball fields at Birchwood Park.
“On paper, the resolution agreement is fair, equitable, it looks good. However, now it's going to be what Morton does and how they look at the amenities at Birchwood Park as opposed to Westwood Park,” said MacIntosh.
Other issues raised during the OCR investigation included inequities in regard to the rotation schedule for replacement uniforms, quality of equipment, participation numbers, and funding.
“What you want to compare is: are athletes receiving the same treatment,” said MacIntosh. “In other words, if they're getting top-of-the-line football helmets, are the volleyball players getting top-of-the-line knee pads or whatever equipment that they have?”
Morton must submit documentation demonstrating the Title IX athletics training by July 1. Morton then will also need to show a demonstration of Title IX compliance through one of three approaches: it provides athletic participation opportunities for boys and girls substantially proportionate to their enrollment numbers; it continues a practice of program expansion responsive to members of the underrepresented sex; or, the athletic programs fully and effectively accommodate girls’ interests and abilities.
Morton will need to submit a plan to ensure equal opportunity between both sexes in its athletic programs to OCR by Oct. 1, as well as progress and budget updates by July 31 in each of the next two years.
MacIntosh said while she’s hopeful the Morton agreement will result in more equity in the Potters’ programs, she doesn’t think one case will motivate other districts to make profound changes.
“I think what really needs to happen is you need the Department of Education, or the NCAA or the IHSA have somebody that visits schools and assesses things from the outside, and then makes recommendations,” she said. “Right now, it's up to the administrations to follow the Title IX law, and I just don't see that happening in the majority of our schools.”