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Feds investigate Fort Worth ISD over alleged unequal athletic opportunities for girls

The Polytechnic High School volleyball rides in the back of a pickup truck during a homecoming parade along Rosedale Street on Sept. 22, 2023, in east Fort Worth. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)
Jacob Sanchez
Fort Worth Report
The Polytechnic High School volleyball rides in the back of a pickup truck during a homecoming parade along Rosedale Street on Sept. 22, 2023, in east Fort Worth. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into Fort Worth ISD over a complaint that alleges the district has not provided equal opportunities for girls’ sports participation.

Alex McCulloch, a Fort Worth ISD teacher at Trimble Tech High School, filed the Title IX complaint with the federal department’s Office of Civil Rights in Dallas. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education programs or activities that receive federal funds.

The investigation started Aug. 23, according to the Department of Education.

The complaint states Fort Worth ISD discriminates based on sex, and pointed to three examples:

  • The district provides “significantly unequal opportunities” for sports participation at varsity and school club levels, particularly in full-contact sports.
  • Girls have repeatedly expressed a desire to participate in rugby.
  • Female student athletes have disparities in access to safe practice facilities, scheduling of sport activities, quality coaches, district-provided medical services, and accidental and catastrophic injury insurance.

Title IX requires schools to offer equal participation opportunities for boys and girls. However, that does not mean an equal number of teams, according to the Department of Education.
McCulloch has advocated for more than a decade for Fort Worth ISD to add rugby as a varsity sport for girls.

He helped organize students to voice their desire for the sport at school board meetings in 2019 and supported a trio of students who filed a lawsuit against the district over what they saw as a lack of opportunities for girls, he said. The lawsuit was eventually tossed out after the students graduated.

“After about 10 years of girls doing it, it just felt like I’m going to do something on their behalf,” McCulloch said. “I’m invested in it, and it just seemed like it was time for an adult to step up, too.”

In a statement, Fort Worth ISD spokesperson Cesar Padilla said the district takes its Title IX obligations seriously and is committed to providing equal athletic opportunities for all students.

The district established the Steering Committee for Gender Equity to identify ways to expand athletic opportunities for female students, Padilla said. One example of that was the addition of girls’ flag football in 2022, he said.

“Beyond this significant addition to its athletics program, Fort Worth ISD and the committee continue the important mission to strengthen athletic programming for its female students to ensure it is meeting and exceeding the athletic interests of all students,” Padilla said.

During Title IX investigations, the Department of Education considers specific circumstances of schools and examines equal opportunity.

The Department of Education declined to comment.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University. Contact him at or via Twitter.