The U.S. Department of Education is repealing a Bush-era policy that some critics argue was a way to avoid complying with federal law in providing equal opportunities for female athletes.
Under the move, schools and colleges must now provide stronger evidence that they offer equal opportunities for athletic participation under the federal Title IX gender equity law.
It reverses a 2005 policy under former President George W. Bush that allowed schools to use just a survey to prove a lack of interest in starting a new women’s sport and encouraged schools to consider a non-response to the questionnaire as disinterest.
“Making Title IX as strong as it possibly can be is the right thing to do,” Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday at an event in Washington, D.C., announcing the change.
The department has sent letters about the change in Title IX policy to more than 15,600 school districts and 5,600 college and university presidents.
Schools have three ways to comply with Title IX: Match the proportion of female athletes to the proportion of women on campus; show a history of increasing sports for women; or prove the school has met the interest and ability of women to participate in athletics.
Before 2005, the third option required districts and colleges to use multiple indicators to assess athletic interests and abilities. The new letter informs institutions that survey results alone cannot justify an imbalance in women’s sports.