A new piece of Congressional legislation introduced Tuesday is looking to add language to federal Title IX laws that would empower the Secretary of Education to issue fines for schools whose athletic departments are out of gender-equity compliance.
The Democrat-backed bill, called the Fair Play for Women Act, is being co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).
The bill seeks, in part, to address the challenge of holding universities accountable for what has become the systemic disregard of Title IX’s mandate for women to receive athletic resources and opportunities proportionate to their representation within a student body.
“It’s no secret there’s still a huge gap in resources and opportunities between women’s sports and men’s sports—it’s a Title IX violation hiding in plain site,” Murphy said in a statement.
While Title IX allows for the federal government to discontinue providing money to schools that are habitually noncompliant, no such school has ever faced that penalty.
Practically speaking, the most effective catalysts of change have been lawsuits brought by individuals or groups of athletes against schools.
In February, 17 past and current female athletes filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against San Diego State, which is believed to be the first monetary damages claim against a school over gender-equity compliance. The case, which is currently seeking class-action status, is asking for at least $1.2 million in compensatory damages to be paid to female athletes who played at SDSU since 2019.
The new bill would seek to further grease the legal skids by providing a private right of action for a school or athlete to sue an athletic department in either state or federal court.
In addition to addressing noncompliant college athletic departments, the legislation would also expand reporting requirements for K-12 schools.
Given the timing—five days before Christmas—the bill’s introduction in the current Congress is largely symbolic, as it has virtually no chance of passing. A spokesperson for Murphy said the plan is to reintroduce it next year.