In 1972, under the Educational Amendments, a federal law was passed that prevented any person in the United States, on the basis of sex, to be excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Under Title IX, public schools are legally required to provide equitable sports opportunities to both boys and girls in high school and at the collegiate level.
I wasn’t permitted to play golf for my varsity high school team after my freshman year and I therefore never got to have that high school athlete experience.
I did everything I could to try to start a girls team, but I was always met with an obstacle. I spoke to my school board and asked what needed to be done in order to make my dream a reality. I did everything they told me to do, from finding the required number of girls to finding a coach, but still the answer was no. I even was asked to play for a girls team at another school, but still the answer was no.
I wanted to find out just how girls themselves felt about them being treated differently in their sports programs than the boys are in theirs.
The responses were upsetting. Many girls feel as if they’re not being respected or treated like their male counterparts are in an environment in which everyone, male or female, should feel as though they have been given an equal opportunity.
Lack of recognition is one issue. "Girls swimming is definitely less recognized than the guys team," said an East Aurora senior. "You constantly hear about the success of guys swimming."
Another issue is a lack of uniforms and equipment.
"Guys have more advantages and privileges than the girls," said a Frontier eighth-grader. "The guys’ volleyball team got new jerseys last year when we (the girls volleyball team) have been stuck with the old JV jerseys the past three years.
"The baseball team got new jerseys, pants and belts at the start of the season, when we had to buy our own pants and belts and got new jerseys halfway through the season," she continued.
The perception that girls are the weaker sex persists.
"A lot of girls are tougher and stronger than boys, but no one realizes it because we (girls) already are born with a label and don’t get to show what we can really do," the eighth-grader said.
One East Aurora junior noted that girls "get dress-coded when we wear our cheerleading uniforms to school."
Dave O’Conner, one of the health teachers at Orchard Park High School, was one of the first to support the creation of the girl’s ice hockey team.
"Sports, in general, have made great strides, but for women only when compared to the past, when opportunities were very limited," He said. "No one should be satisfied with progress if true equality of opportunity is the ultimate goal."
Now, going into college next year, I look back on my high school experience and the experiences of other female athletes, and want to change it for future generations.
No girl should be left out. No girl should be told she can’t play a sport just because of her gender. Something needs to change because girls are missing out on opportunities that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Emma Hastie is a senior at Orchard Park High School.