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Parents File Title IX Lawsuit Against Local School Board

Candace Braun

A group of parents has filed a suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey against the Princeton Regional School Board regarding a Title IX violation. Title IX makes it illegal for schools to deny educational benefits on the basis of gender.

Jim Mahon, the father of two daughters who play softball and ice hockey at Princeton High School; Michael Katz and Sandy Kurinsky, parents of a senior who plays ice hockey and softball at PHS; and Insu and Inkyung Yi, the parents of a junior who plays softball at PHS, are filing the lawsuit against the School Board based on what they feel is an inequality existing between girls and boys sports teams.

The parents are being represented by Samuel J. Schiller of Schiller Law Firm; Professor Ray Yasser, who teaches sports law at the University of Tulsa College of Law; and Jill Ray and Carol Novinson of Novinson and Ray Law Firm in Princeton.

Interim Superintendent Richard Marasco did not return calls made by Town Topics before presstime. However, Jill Ray, of Novinson and Ray, confirmed that the School Board has been served with the complaint.

School Board President Anne Burns declined to comment.

According to Ms. Ray, the four specific areas of concern to the Princeton parents are the funding of girls' softball and ice hockey, the equipment and supplies available for the sports, the scheduling of games and practices, and the use of fields for practice and competition.

"They want the girls to have the same opportunities as the boys," said Ms. Ray, the parent of two daughters involved in middle school and high school athletics. "These girls are devoted athletes...For many years, parents in this town have complained about these inequities and we feel confident that this lawsuit will bring about significant changes in these programs. Title IX was passed to ensure this equality of treatment."

The parents of Princeton students affirm that last year the boys' ice hockey team hosted 12 home games compared to the girls' four games, and the boys' team played 25 games total compared to the girls' 16 games.

In addition, the fields the girls' softball team must use at the Community Park School are approximately one mile away from PHS, and are not owned by the district, and therefore must be shared with the Princeton Recreation Department and area youth and adult softball teams, said Ms. Ray. The boys' baseball field is located next to the Valley Road building, and maintained by the district.

In comparison to the Valley Road fields, the girls' fields do not have permanent bathrooms or changing facilities, batting cages, storage facilities, an electronic score board, an outfield fence, or pitching screens.

"This should be remedied as soon as possible," said Ms. Ray. "These parents just love their kids and want to see the situation remedied for their daughters and future girls that attend the school."

At a facilities meeting held by members of the School Board at the end of September, the school's attorney, Paul C. Kalac, made a statement that the district is not in direct violation of Title IX. However he did say that regarding the inequality between the girls' and boys' playing fields, the parent's complaint "may warrant a finding of unequal facilities."

At the time, Dr. Marasco said he would look into the estimated $2,500 cost of adding a scoreboard at the Community Park field, as well as the possibility of adding two softball fields in an area behind the high school scheduled to be turned into a grass area once construction is completed.

The parents who filed the lawsuit were not in attendance at the meeting.

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

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