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IPS violating law requiring equal athletic opportunities

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The cash-strapped Indianapolis Public Schools must provide more athletic opportunities for female students at six high schools to comply with Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday.

In an unusual move, the department's Office of Civil Rights found the district — one of Indiana's largest and one struggling with a $30 million deficit — had violated the 1972 federal law authored by former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., that requires schools to provide equal athletic opportunities to male and female students.

Girls made up half of IPS high school enrollment during the 2010-11 school year but only 35 percent of participants in athletic programs, the department said. The disparity suggested about 445 more girls should have been participating in sports.

Under an agreement with the Civil Rights Office, the 30,000-student district will take steps to ensure equal athletic opportunities for girls enrolled at six high schools: Arsenal Tech, Broad Ripple, Crispus Attucks, Northwest, Shortridge and Washington.

The agreement requires IPS to increase opportunities for girls in high school athletics and improve the facilities, equipment and prime-time scheduling of game and practice times for girls teams. It also must survey girls' athletic interests in grades 8-12 this year; report their participation in interscholastic and club sports; and report any sports teams eliminated at any of the schools over the past 10 years.

"We don't know what it will cost the district," IPS spokeswoman Le Boler said.

Education Department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said the selection of districts for civil rights reviews is based on statistical data and information from parents, the media, and advocacy and community groups.

Indianapolis attorney William Groth, who litigated a Title IX case in southeastern Indiana for three years and won a 2012 federal consent decree in which 10 southeastern Indiana high schools agreed to schedule girls and boys basketball games equally on Friday and Saturday nights, said he's heard of no other Title IX compliance investigations anywhere in Indiana.

"It is unusual for a large urban school system the size of IPS to be involved in such a comprehensive conciliation agreement for purposes of Title IX compliance," Groth said in an email.

IPS should be credited for taking steps to correct the inequities rather than "engaging in expensive and time-consuming litigation," Groth said.

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