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PIAA to ADs: Follow Rules on Boys Playing Girls' Sports

Paul Steinbach

Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Bob Lombardi told a group of athletic directors Tuesday that they need to start abiding by the rules of boys playing on girls' sports teams.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported May 14 that several schools within the PIAA-affilated Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League were violating PIAA by-laws. Greensburg Salem High School had three boys on its girls' lacrosse team this spring, the Post-Gazette's Mike White reported. One of players scored six goals in one game, four in another, and had two additional games in which he scored twice. Woodland Hills also used boys on its field hockey team last fall and in other years.

Reacting to a commonwealth court judge’s decision, the PIAA seven years ago enacted by-laws that made it close to impossible for boys to play on girls' high school sports teams. Lombardi was unaware of the two WPIAL schools violating PIAA rules until informed by the Post-Gazette.

As reported by the Post-Gazette, Lombardi addressed the controversy this week during a conference in Hershey hosted by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association. Following a PIAA board of directors meeting Wednesday, he reiterated that girls' teams that opt to field boys are in violation of the by-law. “Schools need to follow the by-law," he said. "The by-law is clear. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is what it is. We worked very hard to get that (court decision) to take care of our female athletes. It needs to be enforced properly.”

The WPIAL knew Greensburg Salem and Woodland Hills were using boys on girls' teams, and Woodland Hills athletic director Ron Coursey is a member of the WPIAL board of directors, according to the Post-Gazette. WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said the league did not stop Greensburg Salem or Woodland Hills because PIAA rules state it is up to the school principal to decide whether four criteria are met to allow boys on a girls' team.

Under PIAA by-laws in place since 2014, a boy can play on a girls' team only if the school does not sponsor a boys' team in that sport and the principal determines that all four of the following criteria are met:

• The school provides fewer opportunities for boys to participate than girls.

• The boy would not displace any girl from the team’s roster.

• The boy would not, due to his size, athletic ability and/or other characteristics pose an increased risk of harm to opponents.

• The boy would not provide his team with a significant competitive advantage.

According to the Post-Gazette, Lombardi pointed out Greensburg Salem, needing to meet all four criteria, did not meet even one of the four. “It’s not one, or the other, or the other. It’s all four,” Lombardi said. “As soon as that boy stepped on the field, it displaces a girl."

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