US District Judge Rules in Favor of Women's Softball Team in Title IX Suit
A US District Judge in Hawaii ruled in favor of a women's high school softball team's Title IX claim in Maui County, HI, late last week. Several members of the Baldwin High School softball team, their parents, and their coach sued Maui County and the Department of Education (DOE) for discrimination under Title IX. The basis for their claim was the condition of the women's practice field, which Judge David Ezra ruled was disparate in quality compared to the men's team's field, according to The Maui News.
The women's team was moved from its usual practice field at the start of the 2010 softball season to make room for a Little League team, a private organization, reported the Honolulu Advertiser. The lawsuit stated that the new field is smaller than regulation size and lacks proper field markings or a regulation-size fence. The field is also located a mile away from the school grounds and there have been reports of sexual assaults on the wooded path that leads to the field, reported the Star Bulletin. Practice time was also cut short because the women's team was required to share the field with another team.
Team Coach Joe Duran told the Honolulu Advertiser, "The field that the girls have to play on is unsafe. They are risking injury, losing valuable practice time and playing on a field that doesn't even have the right distance fence. I will not stand by and watch while the DOE and county crush these girls' hopes and dreams."
The lawsuit stated the school's men's team practices at a 1,500-seat stadium, which includes batting cages, a "beautifully manicured field," and "professional scoreboard," reported the Honolulu Advertiser.
According to the Honolulu Advertiser, American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii Staff Attorney Laurie Temple said, "Historically, boys' athletic programs have gained more support and so girls' programs have been left behind. The girls want nothing more than just to be treated fairly. Equal doesn't have to mean identical, but it can't result in second-class treatment. So they aren't necessarily looking to be able to play at Maehara Stadium, but what they do want is to be treated fairly and with respect."
The judge called for an examination of the team's current field and one closer to school grounds. The DOE plans to construct a new practice facility for the women's team, to be completed in 2012, reported KITV.
Media Resources: The Maui News 3/21/10; Star Bulletin 3/19/10; Honolulu Advertiser 3/19/10; KITV 3/19/10