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Friday, May 6, 2016

Title IX results in 4-H Fair changes

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Melanie Brown

Extension Educator

Title IX concerns not only affect sports, Title IX is now affecting 4-H. Title IX was originally designed to assure equity between men's and women's sports acitvities. Now, it is having more widespread effects.

For example, don't look for gender specific events at this year's Clay County 4-H Fair.

"We cannot be gender specific," said Melanie Brown, 4-H Youth Extension Educator.

So, the names of some events have been changed. The Princess and Queen pageants will go on this Saturday as they have in years past, with one difference.

"We are not allowed to call it a 4-H Queen Contest," Brown said. "The only reason for this is that we are federally funded."

The 4-H program is allowed to call it a Queen Pageant or Princess Pageant, but it cannot be called a 4-H Queen or 4-H Princess pageant due to Title IX concerns.

"You can't have '4-H' and 'Queen' together," Brown said.

Following a federal audit of the statewide cooperative extension system, concerns about Title IX came to light. Because the 4-H program is under the Cooperative Extension Service, which is funded in part by the federal government, it must meet guidelines that prohibit participation in any programs that make distinctions on the basis of sex.

The issue is a confusing one, said Renee McKee, assistant director of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service and the state 4-H program leader. Some county fairs are under total 4-H jurisdiction and must comply with Title IX regulations, while others are independent but host 4-H activities.

"The only change is that you may not have discriminatory statements in the criteria," McKee said. "You may not state a young woman may not be married, pregnant or may not have a child. These are problematic statements. We would not exclude such people from our educational program, so they cannot be prohibited."

In Greene County, for example, where 4-H sponsors the fair, a simple rule change this year brought the queen contest into compliance. Officials deleted a rule that said contestants could not be married, pregnant or have had a child.

Title IX affects not just 4-H queen contests, but other 4-H competitions that use a merit system to award recognition to participants based on gender.

For instance, in Brown County, the titles "Miss 4-H" and "Mr. 4-H" had been awarded in the past based on 4-H achievement and an interview. to comply with Title IX, the titles will be awarded now based just on the interview. Likewise, Clay County has had to change the name of its first year awards for a girl and a boy.

"Our 4-H council made the decision and we consulted with Purdue when we looked at the rules and a fair way to apply them," said Barbara Brown, Brown County's extension educator.

Within the 4-H system, the Title IX rules forbid designating a top male and a top female. There can only be the top two, regardless of gender.

"The problem is when you are using achievement only in our program, you cannot separate the gender," McKee said. "You cannot say, 'We will have a boy and a girl.' We are a federally organized youth service organization and there are criteria that we must comply with.""We're just trying to do what's best and obey the law," Brown said.

The Clay County Fair Princess Pageant will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Exhibit Hall at the fairgrounds. The Queen Pageant will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to the program. Both shows are directed by Elaine Clarke.

For more information, see Wednesday's Brazil Times.

The Associated Press and The Herald Times contributed to this report.

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