Florida Girls' Sport Bias Case Delayed
November 2, 2000
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The girls' softball teams at Titusville High School
and Astronaut High School drive miles to play at a public park with dirty
bathrooms and dugouts that barely offer shelter.
On the other hand, the boys' baseball teams have on-campus fields with
refrigerated water coolers and -- at one school -- lights for night games.
The discrepancies between the teams' facilities is at the heart of a
federal trial, which had been scheduled to begin Thursday but was delayed
until Dec. 4.
``They are making girls play on substandard fields off campus, miles from
campus,'' said Mark Tietig, an attorney for the plaintiffs. ``The boys
have their baseball fields on campus with better fields that come up to
the standards and specifications that the girls don't have.''
The Brevard County School Board is accused of violating federal and state
laws that guarantee boys and girls equal facilities and opportunities to
The class-action lawsuit asks U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway to force
the school district to build softball fields at Titusville and Astronaut
high schools. Studies estimate that could cost $30,000 to $275,000 for
Mike Bowling, attorney for the school board, said the district can't
afford to build the fields at this time. Even the boys' football teams at
the two schools have to play off campus, school officials note.
``Brevard County is no worse and probably better than most counties in
Florida,'' Bowling said. ``The school board, like all government entities,
has financial constraints. There are other priorities, such as teachers'
salaries and facilities.''
The lawsuit was originally filed in 1997 by twins Jessica and Jennifer
Daniels, who complained the softball field was inferior to the baseball
field at Merritt Island High School. The lawsuit later was expanded to all
of Brevard's 11 high schools.
In 1997, Conway ordered the district to install lights, provide bathroom
access and improve bleachers so the girls wouldn't be treated as
Astronaut and Titusville high schools are the two Brevard schools still
out of compliance with the law, Tietig said.
At the park where the softball teams play, transients sleep in the dugout
at night, leaving behind garbage and bottles. And, the bases have to be
realigned for fastpitch softball each time the girls play.
The non-jury trial could have far-reaching implications for school
districts around Florida.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has investigated
complaints of gender discrimination in high school sports at schools in
Jackson, Okaloosa, Orange and Washington counties in Florida, and at the
Florida High School Athletics Association.
Linda Purrington <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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