Should Title IX be changed? .
The panel, called the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, is made up of sports professionals and educators. It was created by the Department of Education to "examine ways to strengthen enforcement" of the law as it applies to athletics to "ensure fairness for all."
The bulk of the controversy has been stemming from a community of wrestlers from Division I colleges and universities. Critics claim the law has caused some men's teams to be eliminated and has perpetuated sports teams that have no following.
The formation of the panel and the questions that it is charged with answering implies there's some problem with Title IX, says Leslie T Annexstein, senior counsel with the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. She says what's needed is better enforcement of the law and not any changes that could water the law down.
"From our point of view, the Title IX standards that have been in place for decades have provided opportunities for women and girls," Annexstein says. "The standards have been affirmed by every federal court that has examined them."
Members of the panel say, however, that there is nothing wrong with hearing from the public about their concerns with the law.
"After our first meeting in Washington, D.C., I can tell you this is a group of totally dedicated, caring group of individuals who will take a look at this issue, and we'll see what happens," says Gene DeFilippo, athletic director at Boston College.
Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive officer of the Education Leaders Council and the sole member of the panel representing the interests of grades K-12, said she too was heartened by the openness of the panel members.
"I was struck by the fact that the panel is made up of a bunch of people who seem to be unanimous fans of the principles of Title IX," Keegan says, adding that she is eager to hear about the pros and cons of the law at the first public testimony hearing scheduled later this month in Atlanta.
The debate surrounding Title IX does not have the same "edge" to it at the grade level as in the universities, Keegan says. Still, the issues do have a trickle-down effect.
"Whatever interests students may have are either enhanced or thwarted by what's available to them at the K-12 level," Keegan says.
The commission is charged with gathering information and preparing recommendations by early 2003.
Annexstein said that while she is heartened to see Women's Sports Foundation President Julie Foudy on the panel, the number of athletic directors from Division I colleges on the commission raises some concerns.
But Annexstein says there is enough flexibility in the law to allow fairness to all sides.
"They don't believe that women are as interested in participating in sports as men. That's the crux of it," Annexstein says.