STEVE HANLON: The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Title IX that day

2014-01-16T18:00:00Z 2014-05-16T18:34:11Z STEVE HANLON: The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Title IX that daySteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
January 16, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

If Lake Central is wrong then so is everybody else, except for Munster. And if Lake Central is right, like most others, it seems that fewer girls in Northwest Indiana will have a chance to play high school softball.

It is now up to the Office of Civil Rights in Chicago to determine who is right in the ongoing Title IX struggle at the school in St. John.

Alex Hay has two daughters, freshman Sofia and seventh-grader Gabriella. She became disturbed when she found out that Lake Central offers ninth-grade baseball for the boys but no program exists for the girls.

So she tried to speak and reason with administrators in the district. She said it went to no avail. So she filed a grievance with the OCR in Chicago, which is looking into the issue at the school.

"I grew up playing sports, I've coached it and I know how many girls play softball in this area," Hay said. "It just isn't right that girls don't have the same opportunities as the boys."

Here's where it gets sticky. With Crown Point dropping its freshman softball team this year, Munster is the only school in the region to offer a ninth-grade team. Andrean, the defending Class 3A state champ, didn't have a junior varsity team last spring.

So is the interest down in this sport? Is this another frivolous Title IX bullying tactic? No, I don't think so. With the number of girls who play softball in the Tri-Town district you could have two JV and two freshman teams.

If you wanted to.

In her complaint, Hay used numbers from the 2011-12 school year. The total enrollment was 3,257, with 52 percent being male and 48 percent being female. There were 785 athletes in the school with 59 percent being males and 41 percent females.

That's an 18 percent difference.

"And they counted the cheerleaders twice," Hay said. "According to the Office of Civil Rights, you can't count cheerleading once."

Lake Central assistant superintendent Al Gandolfi said the district is conducting a survey to see what the students actually want. He suggested intramural volleyball or lacrosse or any other items that the survey suggests would help raise opportunities in the school.

Here is one fact. Lake Central's female athletics have always been top shelf. The Indians are a power in most every sport. But that does not mean this current debate is not without its merits.

"We are trying to hear from our community; what it is they want, which is why we're doing the survey," Gandolfi said. "Once we get the results back, we will move in a direction to meet those interests."

Hay spoke at a board meeting and had a petition signed by over 100 people. She also put together a mock schedule. Freshman softball in Illinois is a offered at the bigger schools. She found 25 schools within an easy driving distance over the border that L.C. could play.

Title IX arguments usually give me a headache. I believe in the spirit of the law, but sometimes the counting of every head sends me to the cupboard for some Tylenol.

Hay played softball at Streator and attended Eastern Illinois. She says it better than I can.

"I did not do this to get my daughter on a team," Hay said. "I did it because it's wrong. If someone wouldn't have fought for me 40 years ago I wouldn't have had a shot. That's why we need to fight for the girls today."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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