Princeton Schools Not in Violation Of Title IX, Says District's Attorney
After investigating three letters of complaint sent to the Princeton Regional Schools regarding gender discrimination against the girls' softball and ice hockey teams, the school district's lawyer has confirmed that Princeton is not in violation of Title IX.
"Our basic conclusion is that the district is not in violation of Title IX in the conduct of these athletic programs. In the absence of a violation, there is accordingly no legal obligation to accede to the demands that have been made," according to a September 10 letter from attorney Paul C. Kalac to Interim Superintendent Richard Marasco.
Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in school sports, is the law which James Mahon, Princeton Little League president, has accused the district of violating in his letter of complaint. "No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person or otherwise be discriminated against in any ... athletics," reads the law.
Mr. Mahon has accused the district of giving the boys' baseball team preferential treatment in regards to field use. He claims that the Valley Road field, where the boys play, is more convenient to the high school location than the girls' field at Community Park, said Dr. Marasco.
"In terms of equal treatment, the boys' baseball fields on the Valley Road property are also off campus and are nearly as far away from the high school as Community Park," reads Mr. Kalac's letter to Dr. Marasco.
Mr. Mahon also claimed that the boys' ice hockey team had at least twice as many home games as the girls' team did last year. However, Mr. Kalac said that, "according to the athletic director, both the boys' and girls' ice hockey teams each played the same number of home games last winter season."
Mr. Kalac added that even if Mr. Mahon's statement was accurate, "that would most likely not rise to the level of a Title IX violation."
However, one issue raised in Mr. Mahon's letter may have merit under Title IX, said Mr. Kalac. The complaint that the boys' baseball field is superior in providing an electronic scoreboard, batting cage, and storage shed "may warrant a finding of unequal facilities."
This concern, as well as parents' concerns that more fields are needed at the high school, were addressed at the school board's facilities meeting on Friday, September 24.
Dr. Marasco discussed the possibility of adding a scoreboard, costing approximately $2,500, to the Community Park field. He said that the Princeton Recreational Department would also be willing to make accommodations for equipment storage.
Gary Weisman, facilities director, suggested making a change order to the current plans for the high school and turning the planned grass area behind the school into two softball fields. Currently one artificial turf field exists, which is used for football, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey.
"This would be a smaller field than the one at Community Park. My understanding is that [parents] would be fine with that," said Eric Amkraut, athletic director and supervisor of health and athletic education.
Another possibility would be to add a softball field at the Valley Road building, or at John Witherspoon Middle School.
Mr. Amkraut and Mr. Weisman said they would call U.S. Athletic Fields to find out the cost for creating additional fields, and talk to the school's architect to determine the dimensions they could use at the high school construction site.