Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lawsuit Challenges Softball Fields in Batavia, NY

Batavia City School District in western New York is under fire for the alleged unequal treatment of its girls softball team.  A public interest law firm called Empire Justice Center filed a class action lawsuit against the district, maintaining that its inferior treatment of the girls softball team is a violation of Title IX.  The boys' baseball team at Batavia plays at Dwyer Stadium, a facility that is owned by the city for the primary purpose of hosting the city's minor league team, the Batavia Muckdogs, which has grandstand seats, lighting, a ticket booth, an outfield fence, an electronic scoreboard, press box, covered dugouts, concession stand and bullpens.  The city makes the stadium available for local high school games for a generous $175/game. 

While acknowledging that the girls' softball field lacks all of the amenities of Dwyer Stadium, the school district argues that the city provides those benefits, rather than the school.  They also point out that the softball facilities are comparable to those of the team's competitors.  Yet, as I told a local news station in Batavia, neither of these arguments constitute a legal defense to a Title IX violation.  Title IX requires a school to provide equal treatment to boys and girls athletic programs, whether that treatment is high quality or low, the law is only concerned that is equal.  And the Department of Education has also made clear that if the district accepts from sources outside the school a benefit for the team of one sex, it still has to provide comparable treatment to a team of the other sex. 

The lawsuit should put pressure on the school district to concrete plans for upgrading the softball field.  Batavia residents reportedly voted down an effort in March 2011 to commit public funds to improvements to the field