Ingrid Neel's choice stirs debate
When Rochester seventh-grade girl Ingrid Neel made the choice to play on the boys tennis team this school year rather than the girls, she was going against the grain.
What she wasn’t doing, though, was running contrary to the law.
Title IX, federally enacted in 1972, paved the way for her. It was written to protect persons on the basis of sex from being excluded from education programs.
There is a portion of Minnesota Title IX law that speaks directly to the legality of what Neel is about to do — that is, to play on the Rochester Mayo boys tennis team this spring, despite the school offering girls tennis in the fall, something that Neel didn’t participate in.
It states: "If two teams are provided in the same sport, one of these teams may be restricted to members of a sex whose overall athletic opportunities have previously been limited, and members of either sex shall be permitted to try out for the other team."
Translation: Title IX allows girls, as the sex "previously" limited, to play on boys teams, but not the other way around. Also noted is that girls can’t play on a girls and boys team in any one sport, during any one school year.
To call girls sports "limited" in 2011 does not resonate anywhere close to the way it did in 1972. In fact, the total number of girls sports offered at Mayo currently outdistances the boys offerings by one. Schedules and facilities are also on a par at all of Rochester’s public schools for boys and girls.
So, if things have truly evened up, why the continued concessions toward girls nearly 40 years after the bills’ passage? Well, because Title IX is still in the books. And it’s still in the books because without it, legislators fear potential slippage when it comes to girls opportunities.