Marking an historic step forward for New Mexico’s girls, Governor Richardson signed the School Athletics Equity Act into law on April 7, 2009. Aimed at ensuring that public high schools and middle schools are adhering to federal law by providing equal athletics opportunities for boys and girls, the bill had already been approved unanimously in both the House and the Senate. With ongoing federal probes into alleged inequities between boys and girls sports programs in both Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, advocates say the bill is both timely and sorely needed. Rep. Danice Picraux (D-Bernalillo) sponsored the successful legislation.
“The purpose of HB 432 is to prevent inequities in our education system by providing parents and local communities with the information they need to make sure our girls are being treated fairly. The Governor’s signature means that girls across the state will benefit from the amazing impact that sports can have,” notes Jessica Aranda of the Southwest Women’s Law Center. “Since girls who play sports have a lower risk of teen pregnancy, better academic success, and lower rates of drug use and smoking, making sure our girls have as much of a chance to play as our boys should be a top priority in New Mexico.”
Aranda also notes that HB 432 is designed to save schools money. “Before, the only thing for parents who were concerned about discrimination in their athletics programs could do was file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. This is not only a long, arduous process for the families, it’s also expensive for the schools,” she says. “The investigations that result from OCR complaints can take months, all the while running up the tax payer’ tab in staff time, legal fees, and production of documents,” explains Aranda. “By passing HB 432 and creating more transparency and local control, we are confident that more schools will be compliant with federal law and issues can be resolved on the ground before a complaint compels the feds to get involved.”
The Southwest Women’s Law Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls in New Mexico through legal and policy advocacy. For more information, visit www.swwomenslaw.org