Kentucky School District Sued Over 'Boys Only' Fieldhouse

Two female cross-country and track runners at North Oldham High School in Goshen, Ky., and their parents claim a new fieldhouse built with $1 million of taxpayers' money has a "no girls allowed" policy. The lawsuit filed against the Oldham County Board of Education, district superintendent Paul Upchurch and North Oldham principal Lisa Jarret claims the facility (completed in October 2008) "was constructed and designed strictly for the use of boys and boys' athletics." There are no facilities for girls or girls' athletics, nor is there even a restroom for females, the plaintiffs claim.

"The Fieldhouse contains a locker room for football, shower and restroom facilities for boys only, offices for coaches of boys' sports only, a film and meeting room for use of boys and boys' sports only, a training room for use for boys' sports only, a laundry room used for boys' sports only, and even a separate locker room and shower/bathroom for use by visiting boys' teams," according to the complaint, obtained by Courthouse News Service. "The defendants have failed and refused to allow girls at North Oldham High School, including the minor plaintiffs, any use of the Fieldhouse, employing a 'No Girls Allowed' policy, except briefly during the spring, when the defendants allow the girls' track team to use the visiting boys' locker room. For the majority of the school year, girls are excluded from the Fieldhouse, and even the locker room for visiting football teams is off limits to girls, even though that visiting locker room is superior to any facility open to girls at North Oldham High School."

Kentucky High School Athletic Association officials admitted the fieldhouse offered an advantage to boys but cleared it last spring after the school opened it to the girls' track team, Elden May, a spokesperson for the KHSAA told The Louisville Courier-Journal. Anne Coorssen, attorney for the school district, called the lawsuit without merit, adding that no girls' team at North Oldham is complaining about being disadvantaged. She told Courier-Journal reporter Derek Poore that new girls' locker rooms were built, along with those for boys, in a new school gymnasium two years ago and cited the girls' track team using the fieldhouse as evidence of compliance.

Nevertheless, the girls and parents who filed this lawsuit state that female student-athletes at North Oldham have "no facility equal or even remotely comparable" to the fieldhouse, adding that girls on the school's cross-country team "must change clothes in their coach's office closet or in the hallway or faculty bathrooms." Parent-plaintiffs Richard F. Richards and Christine Wattley say the school and district violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

According to Courthouse News Service and the complaint, the plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring the school to "cease and desist from all further discrimination against girls" in use of the fieldhouse and any other facility, "build a comparable fieldhouse for girls' teams or retrofit the Fieldhouse to convert approximately one-half of its floor space for use by girls' athletics," and implement policies at the school and throughout the district that ensure future compliance with Title IX.

Oldham County Schools is one of 12 school districts named in a lawsuit filed late last year by the National Women's Law Center for failing to provide equal opportunities for female athletes.

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