Thursday, April 25, 2013

Plans for New Athletic Complex Disputed in North Reading, Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reports today about a Title IX dispute brewing in North Reading, Massachusetts, over the construction of a new athletic complex for the high school and middle school.  The complex had initially been designed to provide a new field for both baseball and softball, but was recently modified by the committee supervising the project to provide two fields to baseball, one primary field and a second, smaller practice field.  Many in town are contesting this development, since the softball team currently plays at a field off campus, at a local elementary school, in conditions that are inferior to the existing baseball field already located at the high school. In particular, the softball field lacks a dugout, bathrooms, and locker rooms. That disparity could have been corrected with the construction of two new fields of comparable quality. For that reason, softball advocates are working to convince the school board to return to the initial proposal, and have threatened to file a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights if the plan for two baseball fields remains in place. 

I think the softball advocates are right to see this as a Title IX issue.  As I told the reporter for this story, “It’s not equitable for the girls to have to pay for their own transportation off campus or to not have fields of comparable quality,” she said. “And it’s even more egregious that at a moment when the school is adding new facilities, it’s not seeking to correct that inequity but is perhaps going to exacerbate it.”  Hopefully, the school district will decide on its own to return to the gender equitable plan. If not, I think the softball advocates will easily prevail by leveraging Title IX.