Girls in the Oakland Unified School District are now expected to have equal chances to play high school sports following a settlement between the district and Legal Aid at Work, a legal services nonprofit.

Female students are expected to get equal opportunities to play sports as well as equal amenities such as athletic facilities, publicity, scheduling and transportation.

The agreement, which was announced Monday, also specifies that the district’s work to reverse inequality will be monitored for three years.

Complaints from students and parents as well as reports of cuts to girls’ sports prompted Legal Aid at Work to send a demand letter to school district officials in September 2018.

The district was planning to make a disproportionate number of cuts to girls’ sports compared with boys’ sports to help close a budget gap, aid Kim Turner, director of Legal Aid at Work’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports Project.

“Athletics is part of one’s education,” Turner said.

Students learn time management and resilience, among other skills that will help them succeed, she said.

An economic study by Betsey Stevenson at the University of Pennsylvania shows that girls who play high school sports earn 8 percent more as adults and achieve 0.4 years more education than girls who do not play sports in high school.

Both results may be important for many girls in Oakland, which has a larger number of low-income families than some other cities.

Turner added, “Girls of OUSD not only will get equal chances to play as a result of this agreement, but also will receive many lifelong benefits associated with athletics participation” such as higher grades and better health.

Turner said school district officials worked collaboratively on the agreement with Legal Aid at Work.

OUSD’s mission is “to build a Full Service Community District focused on high academic achievement while serving the whole child, eliminating inequity, and providing each child with excellent teachers, every day,” district officials said in a prepared statement.

District officials said they are pleased with the settlement and are excited to be working with Legal Aid at Work to make the changes.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.