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Princeton Regional Schools Reach Settlement on Title IX

Candace Braun

The Princeton Regional School District has agreed to build two softball fields at John Witherspoon Middle School as part of a recent settlement with parents of female athletes at Princeton High School.

The settlement follows a lawsuit that was filed by the parents last fall, which stated the district was in violation of Title IX, the 1972 federal act which prohibits gender discrimination in athletics. Under the agreement, the district will construct a regulation-size varsity field at John Witherspoon Middle School, to be ready for use by the fall of 2006; a junior varsity softball field will also be constructed there for use by the 2007 season.

The field the girls' softball team currently uses at Community Park will be upgraded for use until the other fields are completed. This will include locker room space, a storage facility, toilets, a trainer, and an electronic scoreboard, which has already been purchased and is currently in use, said Superintendent Judith Wilson.

The school system has also agreed to establish and/or maintain policies, practices, and systems to ensure equivalent programs for boys' and girls' softball and ice hockey teams, in areas including expenditures, equipment and supplies, training services, practice arrangements, competition schedules, and coaches' salaries.

The lawsuit was filed last October by a group of parents ‹ James F. Mahon, Jr., Michael Katz and Sandy Kurinsky, and Insu and Inkyung Yi ‹ who claimed that the boys' teams at Princeton High School received favorable treatment in several areas, all of which have been addressed in the settlement.

The agreement has been constructed to ensure equity between boys' and girls' athletic teams, but does not acknowledge that the district has been in direct violation of Title IX, said Ms. Wilson. "I'm delighted it was settled in mediation and not litigation," she said, adding that the district agreed to move forward with measures as an act of good faith, to ensure male and female sports were treated equally at the high school.

Settling the lawsuit without going to litigation saved the district "tens of thousands of dollars," said Ms. Wilson, adding that the district has already spent $20,000.

Mr. Mahon, one of the parents who filed the lawsuit, said that he is happy with the settlement: "We accomplished everything we set out to do Š the settlement was amicable and in good faith." He added that he hopes this action will encourage other schools in the state to make all athletic opportunities equal for males and females.

All of the provisions for the settlement will be implemented within an 18 to 24-month period, said Ms. Wilson. Once construction concludes at John Witherspoon this summer, the district will begin constructing the first of the two fields. Ms. Wilson was unable to provide an estimate of the cost of making the changes necessary to satisfy the parents' requests.

Right now, the district is looking to make the girls' ice hockey team part of the Girls' Ice Hockey League, after which changes can be formally made to comply with parents' requests, said Ms. Wilson: "We expect that to be fully underway for the 2005-2006 school year."

She added that Princeton has been in the forefront in women's athletics, and is one of only two public schools in the state to offer ice hockey for females.

"We came up with a workable plan that addresses these important issues in a manner that achieves everyone's common goal ‹ an improved overall learning experience," said Julie Colin, a partner in the law firm of Hill Wallack, the district's legal counsel.


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