DRAFFENVILLE – Reacting to a grievance charging non-compliance with requirements of federal law, the Marshall County Board of Education voted Thursday night to approve the building of a press box and concession facility at the Marshall County High School softball field.
The grievance was filed with the board by Benton resident Mike Ray, parent of a player on the Lady Marshals softball team.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 addresses a wide spectrum of subjects and prohibits discrimination based on gender. Athletic programs in publicly funded schools and colleges are subject to its requirements and have received extensive media coverage over the past four decades as schools have worked to provide equivalent opportunities for women athletes.
One of Ray’s complaints was the absence of a permanent press box and concession facility at the MCHS softball field, while the adjacent baseball field has had a two-story facility for several years.
“I’m kind of disappointed that it had to come to this to get anything done,” Ray said Saturday. He was not present at Thursday’s meeting.
The board approved the recommendation of Ricky Jones, transportation and maintenance director, to authorize a project application (Ky. Dept. of Education form BG-1) to initiate the project. Jones’ recommendation included an estimated cost of $87,750 for a facility matching the one at the Marshals baseball field.
He based the estimate on a cost of $150 per square foot plus 25 per cent for contingencies.
“I hope bids will come in cheaper than that,” he said.
Jones’ recommendation also called for an accelerated time period for bidding the project, awarding a contract and getting construction under way in time for the softball season in the spring.
“The timing is not exactly what I would want it to be,” Jones said. He cited long-range plans that call for construction of a joint concession and restroom facility to be located between the baseball and softball fields.
“In our facilities plan, it was a long-term discretionary item,” Jones said.
But he acknowledged that the school is out of compliance with Title IX mandates for equal facilities.
“This is an issue we knew needed to be addressed,” Jones said. “Softball came along as a sport later than baseball did in our school’s history.”
Ray acknowledged that the matter is likely to be controversial in a time of tight budgets, the cut this year of several teaching positions and a recent bump in the school tax rate.
Ray expressed shock at the cost estimate.
“I think it’s ridiculously high,” he said. “But I’m not a contractor. If they’re going to build the bigger facility with bathrooms and everything that they talked about, I could see it.”
Facilities are the softball field were addressed in the second of six points Ray listed in his grievance.
The first point took MCHS and the school district to task for not having a Title IX policy in place. He expressed frustration in making his concerns known and said he finally resorted to just writing his own grievance, which he submitted to athletic director Jeff Stokes, the Title IX coordinator, on Aug. 13.
The district’s response to that point was to assert that it is in compliance inasmuch as there is no grievance process for KHSAA member schools. Grievances are to be filed with the federal Office of Civil Rights.
Other points of the grievance included:
n Inequality of publicity. The grievance cited specifics such as schedule cards, calendars “and any other publications currently used by the school” and stated that radio and television broadcasts should be expanded to include more female sports teams.
The district responded that it does not restrict or promote broadcasts of one sport over another and that pocket schedules are available for every sport except cross country. Schedules are also supposed to be posted on the MCHS website and the district administration encourages all coaches to set up their own websites with information specific to their sport.
n Inequality of coaching experience and qualifications. The grievance stated that “future hiring of coaches” focus on experience and qualifications “to bridge the current gap” between boys and girls sport coaches.
“Marshall County Schools cannot be restricted in the hiring of personnel,” the district stated in a reply to Ray. “Based on the pool of applicants, the best coaches possible are hired for our athletic teams. We cannot commit to future hiring of coaches because we are limited to those individuals who apply for the positions.”
n Inequality of participation ratios. The grievance questioned the use of cheerleading and bass fishing in calculating figures, and stated that only sports approved by the Office of Civil Rights be used in determining those numbers.
The school responded that the male-female ratio was reviewed and approved by the KHSAA and that cheerleading was not used in the calculation of the ratio.
n Lack of training for Title IX administrators. The grievance specified that an internal review team be formed and trained, that a self-audit be performed and results reported to the coordinators and the superintendent, that an oversight committee be formed to ensure that problem areas are noted and addressed, and that progress reports be submitted to the oversight committee. The grievance also requested that Stokes be relieved of his duties as Title IX coordinator.
The school reported that MCHS principal Amy Waggoner, Stokes, MCHS Athletic Director and Angie Fisk, District Title IX coordinator, attended Title IX training on Sept. 13. Also, a KHSAA revisit audit was conducted Oct. 13, 2011, with no violations noted. Fisk will review and recommend further action needed for Title IX compliance, the response stated.