Jane Frederick, a two-time track and field Olympian, honed her talent for jumping fences while studying at the University of Colorado. She shared her story alongside five other women athletes at the Santa Barbara Courthouse on Friday to mark the 51st anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law that promotes gender equality in school sports and educational programs.
Before becoming a coach at UC Santa Barbara, Frederick — a repeat national champion who set the first official world record in the women’s heptathlon — jumped fences and gender barriers to practice late at night after being denied access to university facilities. In her blue Olympic legacy jacket, she repeated what Colorado’s male track coach told her: “Get off, no girls.”
Despite facing discrimination, Frederick’s “unique ambition of the sportswoman” led to the establishment of Colorado’s first women’s varsity track and field program.
She and other pioneers — including Rep. Patsy Mink (HI), co-author of the Title IX amendment and the first woman of color elected to the House of Representatives — were honored at the event for their strength and determination, which paved the way for the young flag football players in attendance.
The girls’ coach, Foothill Elementary teacher Jaylon Letendre, spoke of the “blood, sweat, tears, and cleat marks” that it took to demonstrate the capability of her players and make high school girls’ flag football an official CIF sport offered at all three Santa Barbara Unified high schools next year.
The event’s organizer, former Santa Barbara City College instructor Celeste Barber, graduated high school in 1970, two years before Title IX’s enactment in 1972. She recounted how, in 1968, she was denied entry to a basic auto shop class because she was a girl. “Crazy, huh?” she asked.
“There was the before, and there’s the ever-after and growing still,” she said. “Elite female athletes and young girls learning flag football — they are worth celebrating.”
Athletes at the event acknowledged the progress made by Title IX but stressed the need for further action.“Stay fierce, don’t let anyone ask you that question, ‘Why are you here?’” Letendre told the audience. “Stand up and advocate for everyone to have these opportunities.”
Just last year, the Department of Education commemorated 50 years of Title IX by proposing strengthened protections for LGBTQI+ students who face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as requirements for fair school procedures around complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual violence and other sex-based harassment.
Additionally, in April 2023, a new rule was proposed to secure the rights of transgender, non-binary, and intersex students in school sports, countering discriminatory bans in some states. Although no such legal bans exist in California, organizations like PFLAG Santa Barbara have expressed support for young trans athletes and are working to raise awareness about the challenges trans youth face in the community.
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