NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - The female athletes who claim there is inequality between the boys’ and girls’ sports teams were not satisfied with the district’s report on gender equity in athletics.
On May 2, a group of girls spoke out about the many differences they see in how the district treats the sports teams, triggering the district to take on a Title IX Athletics Gender Equity Review.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
Adam Van Der Stuyf, director of pupil personnel services in the district and the Title IX point person, presented the findings at the June 20 Board of Education meeting,
The review was conducted by board counsel, Andrea Green and Kaveh Dabashi of Bond Schoeneck & King. Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Freeston said the investigation was done using the same protocols as the federal Office of Civil Rights.
The report, which is available in full on the district’s website in the meeting notes for June 20, found that the district was in compliance with the mandates of Title IX for the 2016 through 2018 school years because the district provided the same participation opportunities, the same advance competitive opportunities, and equivalent benefits and services for female and male athletes.
The Office of Civil Rights uses those three prongs as its guidelines to assess compliance.
The review looked at varsity and junior varsity teams for grades 9-12 and the modified teams for grades 7-8 for the 2016 through 2018 school years.
In the 2017-2018 school year, girls made up 47 percent of the total high school population and were 51 percent of the student athlete population.
The review also found that the budget for the boys teams compared to the girls teams “were nearly dollar for dollar the same, and that on a program-wide basis, boys’ teams and girls’ teams were provided comparable benefits in their practice and competitive scheduled, competitive facilities (fields and gyms), locker rooms, team rooms, training facilities and coaching staff,” the report said.
In an email following the meeting, Freeston said the concerns raised by parents and students about uniforms and playing field discrepancies are still an issue “but they do not rise to the OCR criteria for Title IX gender equity violations, according to our legal counsel.”
Some of those complaints are that there is no parent seating for field where the girls play, that some girls are forced to wear boys’ uniforms, and that the girls teams don’t always have access to locker rooms, according to the students who spoke at the May 2 meeting.
“I can assure you that there will be follow-up meetings,” Freeston said. “We have made many changes and there are more to come.”
Ellen Herlihy, a rising 10th grader who is leading the charge of female athletes, said she was “in shock” when she saw the results of the review.
“It was tough for me to sit through and watch the meeting,” Herlihy said. “What I was hoping to see was the Board of Education directly acknowledge the mistakes that were made.”
Carol Hughes, a parent who spoke on behalf of the girls, was emotional when she delivered this speech to the board:
“I am here for the girls who have been bused off campus to practice and play their sports. I’m here for the girls who have been denied uniforms because of their size but we bought uniforms for the boys. I’m here for the girls who are not allowed to use the locker room at half-time because they have a male coach and we couldn’t figure out how to get them in there. I’m here for the girls who were forced to wear boys’ uniforms because we don’t have girls’ uniforms for them. I’m here for the girls who didn’t get to play on the big field until we brought it up. I’m here for the girls who got those lousy headbands when we spent a ton of money on boys’ baseball hats and then when I called up about it you told me that the girls picked those headbands and you didn’t even go back and ask the coach. You blamed it on a bunch of 13, 14, and 15 year old girls instead of going all the way to the bottom.”
Hughes said other parents and athletes have felt too threatened to speak up about these and other issues.
“Those girls that watch the tape tonight, that came up to the mic to speak to you, they’re disgusted because their texts were flying through to my phone while you were speaking,” Hughes said.
In her email, Herlihy said she’s thankful for some of the issues the board has fixed but doesn’t plan to stop pushing the board until she feels the teams are treated fairly.
“This is not the end, as the activist I am, I hope to bring more issues including this one to the surface,” Herlihy said. “This will help make sure our school is showing true equality for all.”