Pasco, Columbia-Burbank and Kiona-Benton City are among 26 Washington school districts named in a complaint that formally was accepted by the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
A March 11 letter from the agency to an unnamed complainant cites allegations that the school districts discriminate against female students by not offering them the same opportunities to play school sports as are offered to boys.
The federal department has jurisdiction over such a complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any activity operated by a recipient of federal money.
All of the districts named in the complaint -- including Walla Walla, Moses Lake, Royal, Wahluke and Washtucna -- get federal money to run their schools.
Formally accepting the complaint does not mean the education department agrees with the allegations, according to the letter.
Officials with the Office for Civil Rights did not respond Thursday to requests for more details on the allegations.
Pasco Superintendent Saundra Hill responded to the Herald with a written statement, acknowledging they had received a notice about the case on March 14.
The letter requested information from the district, but did not provide any specifics on the complaint.
"We had no previous indication of any issue before receiving this letter," Hill said.
Kiona-Benton Superintendent Rom Castilleja said his district received the letter Thursday.
He contacted the district's athletic director to "figure out exactly what this is about," he said. "But we have no idea what it is."
The letter he received asks the district for coaches' names and contact information, how many boys and girls are signed up in each athletic program, how many different sports the district offers and what other sport programs are available in the community.
The districts have until April 15 to respond.