Thursday, February 21, 2008

Parents Demand, Are Promised, Equity for Girls' Sports

“I guarantee you this.... From this day forward, if the girls are eating a bologna sandwich, the boys will eat a bologna sandwich.

This memorable quote was Raleigh County (WV) Superintendent Charlotte Hutchens's unequivocal promise for equal treatment for the female athletes at Woodrow High School. Hutchens made this promise after forty parents presented a petition to the school board demanding that the board address the condition of the high school gymnasium where the girls' basketball team plays. The gym's roof has so many leaks that the floor becomes dangerously slippery and has caused injury to players. The boys' basketball team is transported to a bigger, nicer, gym at the convention center in town. Parents insisted that if the boys had to play at Woodrow's gym, the conditions would not have been allowed to deteriorate so badly.

In response to the parents' argument, Hutchens emphatically promised that the girls and boys would receive equal treatment going forward. She is on the record stating that the girls will play at the convention center too, if that is where the boys continue to play (the board also debated fixing the roof at Woodrow). Pressed further, Hutchens issued her bologna sandwich promise, reminiscent of Bush I's famous "read my lips." It's hard to backslide from a memorable, emphatic promise like that.

Since we so often report about OCR investigations and lawsuits, it is good to see a seemingly successful example of resolving inequity issues without invoking the adversarial process. It is also good to see parents organizing themselves and making such a persuasive case for gender equity.