NYC Schools Need To Offer Well-Rounded Opportunities For Both Genders

New York City Public Schools are currently facing some serious accusations of violating Title IX provisions, meaning they haven't been providing equal opportunities to girls — particularly in their athletic departments.

In 2010, the National Women's Law Center in Washington, DC filed an official complaint.

As a result of this complaint, the Civil Rights office of the US Department of Education ordered NYC Public Schools to add at least 3,862 more spots on sports teams for females in order to reach equality among the genders.

Interestingly enough, the school district's response was to survey the middle and high school students to see if there was a need for these spots, based on interest.

This might mean that the demand for more sports opportunities is not coming from the students, but from law officials.

While driven from good intentions, it's hard not to wonder the real reason behind the inequitable numbers of male athletes vs. female athletes.

The National Federation Of State High School Associations reported that only 42 percent of student athletes are female. At the risk of garnering hate from fellow women, I have to pose the question: What if that's by choice?

Apparently, it would cost New York City $1 million to pay for the expenses of creating almost 4,000 more spots for girls, and it's unclear whether or not the girls really even want them. That's $1 million that may be taken from other departments, like music, art and theatre.

As a theatre kid in high school, a theatre major in college and a theatre educator now, I feel a sense of duty to point out that there's often a huge imbalance in how school districts spend their money, and it's almost always in favor of athletics.

There are frequent reports of schools slashing art and music budgets to compensate for various issues: enrollment, the economy, you name it.

So, are sports more important than art and music? Is it fair to say that one activity outweighs another?

Teenagers — and all people — learn in different ways. Part of a school's responsibility is to provide students with various outlets through which to learn important life skills, like teamwork, time management, commitment and leadership.

Sports definitely encourage all of those values, but so do other programs.

While it's important to promote gender equality, it's also important to give all students a plethora of different opportunities. Not every girl is dying to play soccer just so she can say she's "equal" to her male classmates.

After-school programs and clubs are essential to help teenagers understand who they are and explore their passions.

It seems that there's often an emphasis on pushing girls toward certain activities or interests simply for the sake of smashing gender roles.

Girls are nudged toward things that are stereotypically "for boys," merely for the label of being groundbreaking.

But, isn't that just as bad as strapping a tutu on a girl and telling her she has to dance because she's female?

To make things truly equal and fair, perhaps we should allow girls and boys the freedom to choose what they want to pursue.

If a girl is interested in basketball, that's great. But, it's also okay if that girl would rather learn a musical instrument. Both are reputable and valid ways to spend one's time.

In an ideal world, emphasis would be placed on the value of all after-school activities, and that would be made clear through the funds allocated for each program.

A high school population is made up of unique individuals, all with their own interests.

It's time we service all of those diverse passions, and recognize the importance of each of them.