The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a joint report with the Poverty & Race Research Action Council in April entitled “Finishing Last: Girls of Color and School Sports Opportunities. The report highlights athletic disparities based on race and gender, pointing out that U.S. high schools don’t give female students equal opportunities to play sports.
The date compares “heavily minority schools,” with a 10 percent or less non-White student population with “heavily White schools,” where 90 percent or more of the students are White.
“Girls of color are doubly disadvantaged because these heavily minority schools offer fewer athletic opportunities in such a way that these girls are not getting their fair share,” noted NWLC Senior Counsel and Equal Opportunities in Athletics Director Neena Chaudhry.
NWLC “took an innovated approach in this report,” said Chaudhry in a recent MSR phone interview, because such sports data, such as spots on teams, are not available by gender and race. This in itself can be frustrating, she said.
“We feel that it is vital that data is broken down in these categories because then you can see how Black girls and Hispanic girls, and Black boys and Hispanic boys are doing,” she pointed out.
Chaudhry continued: “We at the National Women’s Law Center and many other civil rights groups, have been pushing for some time [to make] data available by race, gender -[and] disability, not just for athletics, but when it comes to other education issues as well. We’re starting to see some progress but we need to do a lot more.”
Included among the report’s major findings is over 40 percent of U.S. schools “are either heavily White or heavily minority”; heavily minority schools offer fewer overall athletic opportunities, “fail to distribute those limited opportunities equitably between boys and girls”; and “girls of color finish last in terms of chances to play sports” because of large gaps between the percentage of spots on teams for girls and the percentage of students who are girls.
“This means that girls of color finish last in terms of chances to play sports,” according to the report.
The data instead reaffirmed the belief among many that Black girls and other girls of color in many U.S. high schools aren’t getting chances to play sports. The report “really back[s] up that claim,” said Chaudhry.
“We highlight 13 states in the report, but that does not mean there are not problems in other states,” Chaudhry said. “The picture and the research we are advocating and presenting is national.”
The report is a follow up to a joint NWLC-NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund report released last September that says Black girls on average fare worse nationally on average for “almost every measure of academic achievement,” and race and gender disparities in school often lead to high dropout rates, limited employment chances and increased poverty risk.
“States really need to take a look at how we divide the resources that we have [in] the different school districts, making sure they are not discriminating based on race,” said Chaudhry. “School districts need to look at how they are giving up opportunities on the basis of gender.”
Finally, there are plenty of benefits for kids, especially girls, playing sports in school. “We want to make sure we are giving all our kids an equal opportunity and benefit from sports,” concluded the NWLC senior counsel. “I think it’s about our communities to have opportunities right for the kids.”
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