Albany County School District No. 1’s participation in the Wyoming High School Activities Association was called into question Wednesday at the Board of Education meeting. The discussion came from a claim from a board member the association is not providing female athletes with the same opportunities as boys for sports, violating Title IX.
ACSD No. 1 Board of Education Trustee Tammy Schroeder objected to the proposal to approve the Wyoming High School Activities Association’s Enrollment for 2017-2018 at meeting. She said the association has not provided girls with the same number of opportunities to participate in sporting events as boys.
“This may seem radical, but I cannot swallow staying a part of Wyoming High School Activities Association as long as they — in my opinion — violate Title IX,” Schroeder said. “(They are) providing boys with more opportunities for participation than for girls.”
She said the gap between boys and girls opportunities came from the boys having one more sporting program than girls. In the past, both genders had the same number of programs but it changed in 2004 when the girls’ gymnastics program was eliminated.
“In 2004, it was even, because they had girls’ gymnastics, but they had such low participation that they couldn’t support the high school girls’ gymnastic program,” Schroeder said. “An issue there is that they have a different number of sports per season between boys and girls. In the spring, it’s even, in the fall, there’s one more for girls than boys, and in the winter, there’s two more for boys than there is for girls.”
According to the 2017-2018 activities association handbook, programs are only available to the gender they are assigned to. Girls cannot participate in a sports program with boys because of activities association policy. Mixed-gendered teams are prohibited — girls cannot play on or against boys’ teams and vice versa.
Merely adding a new sport for girls would not help bring the same opportunities to girls because there wouldn’t be anyone else in the state to compete against. If a real change for this is going to happen, it would need to happen statewide, Trustee Mark Bittner said.
“If we as a district add a sport, that doesn’t mean anything because there’s no competition across the state, so whatever happens would have to be statewide,” Bittner said.
School Board Clerk Jason Tangeman said the problem comes from football and wrestling not being popular sports for girls. This is compounded by the fact there aren’t enough student athletes in the state to play all available sports.
The more people are interested in other sports the easier it becomes to form girls teams across the state for them to compete against.
“Football is the unequalizer, football is the problem,” Tangeman said. “The problem is there’s not enough girls interested in it and wrestling in Wyoming.”
Schroeder said the activities association sent out surveys to try to address the problem, but the questions varied from district to district.
“They made (an effort) to survey the parents of high school students whose kids will not be affected to many changes, so it’s the elementary parents they needed to survey,” she said. “They needed to write a real survey — not just have people in each district send one out.”
The district asked the activities association before to help with the girls scheduling concerns, Schroeder said.
“Two years ago, I talked to (Superintendent Jubal Yennie) about our start time for girls and boys basketball because girls always play the early game — the warm-up game for boys — and the boys got the late game, so last year, he asked and told them to switch the times, and despite the predictions that other schools won’t do it, it’ll fail, kids won’t want to be there, it was fine,” she said.
Schroeder said having the later start time made the players feel more valued even if fewer people came to their game compared to a boys game.
“(One of the girls basketball players said) they really appreciated being treated as equals, and they recognize having the late game, (they) might not have the same attendance — they felt (they were on the same level as) the boys,” Schroeder said.