The Butte school district has reported to a federal civil rights office that its sports facilities are equal for male and female student athletes.
But those who originally brought the complaint about inadequate girls’ softball fields say the district report is “misleading,” and that some facilities have a long way to go before they’re equal.
The district complied with the voluntary resolution agreement that required it to report on its facilities to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which oversees the Title IX complaint.
The district wrote that its “locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities for boys and girls (sic) programs are basically equivalent.”
Five ongoing steps will be taken to make sure no Title IX violations occur in the future, according to the district. In addition, it outlined improvements made over the course of the year, including new water lines, new scoreboards, and reconstructed softball fields at Stodden Park. The report said new dugouts are planned this spring, along with renovations to tennis courts and the track.
Chuck Merrifield, Butte High’s athletic director, said the district and county will spend a little more than $255,000 on Stodden Park upgrades this summer. The most costly improvements include the labor for installing the new infields and water work, which cost $120,000 altogether, and the $33,000 infield dirt.
But Sid deBarathy, an ex-softball coach who brought the Title IX complaint against the school, said the report makes misleading claims, especially at Stodden Park, the softball field that spurred the Title IX complaint.
The district wrote that all three softball fields had been reconstructed, when in fact only two had work done, deBarathy said.
Merrifield said the third softball field would be completed this summer.
The report says the girls’ softball team has a “team changing room” at the softball fields, but deBarathy said the room has mold, broken pipes and broken glass, with no light and no water. He said it would take a few thousand dollars to bring it up to a usable condition.
He said the report missed a few key points, including the bleachers, which aren’t up to code, and a storage space, which the district said it would provide for the girls’ softball team. He emailed the Office for Civil Rights on those issues.
In the report, the district has created a committee that will ensure Title IX compliance. The committee is made up of the superintendent, school board members, Butte High administration and a Title IX compliance officer.
deBarathy said the committee struck him as a “fox guarding the henhouse concept.”
Using data from coaches, student athletes, and parents, the committee will create an annual Title IX compliance report, the plan says.
The voluntary resolution agreement says if the district follows through with all the work it outlines in its self-report, the complaint will be resolved. It is unclear how deBarathy’s letter to OCR might impact the process.
— Reporter Piper Haugan: 496-5572, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/Piper_Haugan