Do girls have equal rights to field usage?
A client in Oregon contacted me about a problem the local softball league is having as regards access to fields. I doubt this problem is unique, and perhaps other organizations can benefit from this information.
The local rec baseball and softball teams share a municipal ballpark, which includes multiple practice fields. Apparently, the girls are not given equitable field time except in the fall, when the boys don’t play.The softball teams have offered to help maintain and build fields to pull their weight, to no avail.
The coach asks if Title IX or another statute applies in this case since the fields are part of a public facility.
According to our research, Title IX does not apply to municipalities unless the public facilities were being used for school-based programs. However, the equal protection clause provides an avenue to request injunctive relief if that becomes necessary. However, that can certainly be avoided if the municipality would simply allot field space based on the percentage of boys teams vs. girls teams. For example, if there are 75 boys teams and 25 girls teams, the girls teams should have access to 25% of the prime practice opportunities.
Understanding how the law works can help girls gain access to fields and can help the municipality stay out of trouble.
If you have a question or concern about your sports organization, don’t hesitate to contact me.