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Princeton School District Faces Gender Inequality Issues

Candace Braun

James Mahon, Princeton Little League president, recently sent a letter of complaint to the Princeton Regional School District regarding discrimination against the high school's girls' varsity and junior varsity ice hockey and softball teams.

Mr. Mahon alleges that the district is in direct violation of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in school sports.

While local publications have reported that Mr. Mahon has filed a lawsuit against the district, Interim Superintendent Dr. Richard Marasco said that he has not received anything legal in writing.

Mr. Mahon, an attorney with daughters on Princeton's softball and ice hockey teams, declined to comment.

According to the August 10 letter Mr. Mahon sent Dr. Marasco, the boys' softball team receives preferential treatment which field they use, and the number of home games they play. The boys' softball team has use of the Valley Road fields, where there is storage space for equipment and an electronic scoreboard. However, the girls' softball team must use the field at Community Park, which has neither of these amenities.

Mr. Mahon has also contended that the boys' ice hockey team has more home games than the girls' ice hockey team, a total of 12 games for the boys compared to four for the girls. However, Dr. Marasco reported that there are less schools with girls' ice hockey teams for Princeton's team to play against.

In addition, the boys' hockey team is part of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), while the girls' ice hockey team is not. This changes how each team is treated with regard to field use and financial aid from the district, said Dr. Marasco.

NJSIAA, not each individual school district, determines which athletic teams may be part of its organization.

If Princeton is found to be in violation of Title IX, it could lose its federal funding, approximately $1.8 million of the district's $62.3 million budget for 2004-05.

According to Anne Blenman, the parent of a high school girls' softball player, the main issue right now among parents and students is that there are no plans within the district's $81.3 million construction project to add more fields at the high school for the girls' softball team. John Curtis, former athletic director for the district, has been asking for two additional fields since 1996, but has been ignored on an annual basis by the school board, said Ms. Blenman.

"The need for the softball fields has been apparent for years, yet deliberately left out of the plans for the renovation," she said.

Inkyung Yi, also a parent of a girls' softball player, attended a meeting of parents of female athletes at the high school with Gary Weisman, facilities director, Eric Amkraut, PHS athletic director, and the high school's construction manager. The August 4 meeting was held to discuss the question of adding the desired athletic fields. At the conclusion of that meeting it was determined that adding two fields was still possible, said Ms. Yi.

However, at a later meeting in August, Dr. Marasco concluded that there was indeed not enough space for the fields, said Ms. Yi.

Dr. Marasco said that he is working with his staff to put together a detailed report of the current use of the fields by the various teams in the fall and spring, and will address the issue further with parents and concerned residents at the Board's facilities meeting on Friday, September 24.

"We are looking at the fields right now and trying to determine if we can accommodate the teams in other ways," he said.

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