HAZLE TWP. – A contentious discussion about changing the middle school girls’ sports schedule because of possible non-compliance with state athletic rules erupted at Thursday’s Hazleton Area School Board work session.
Board member Tony Bonomo asked why Athletic Director Fred Barletta was asked to prepare a schedule to allow changing middle school girls’ basketball from the fall to the winter. He said the board never approved such a directive at a public meeting.
Athletic Committee Chairwoman Carmella Yenkevich said a memo she sent out regarding the schedule preparation might have been poorly worded; she said plans to change the schedule are still only being considered.
Committee member Elaine Curry said the issue was being examined because, “We may not be in compliance with Title IX.”
Curry said a coach representing a group of girls coaches came to the board during a closed-door meeting in November “concerned with the fact that (in the winter), the girls have no sports activities. The boys have sports in the fall, winter and spring. The girls have nothing in the winter.”
“I personally feel that the same as the boys have an opportunity in fall winter and spring, I personally feel that the girls must have that same opportunity, that they cannot be left out of a block of time without having a sport activity,” Curry said.
Boys’ sports include football, cross country and soccer in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter and baseball and track and field in the spring. Girls’ offerings include basketball, cross-country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball in the fall and softball and track and field in the spring.
Barletta said he foresaw logistical problems with gym space and league scheduling.
“An excuse cannot be that the boys are taking the basketball courts and we can’t put the girls in. We’re not saying it even has to be basketball. We’re saying that (during that) block of time (in the winter), the girls need to have a sports activity for equity,” Curry said.
Barletta said officials at other schools in the local league might not agree to change their girls’ schedule. “But it’s something we can look at,” he said.
Curry said the girls’ coaches interpreted the law that “the same as the boys can have a sporting event fall, winter and spring, so should the girls. … My interpretation is there’s no equity here.”
Board member Jack Shema said the district isn’t prohibiting girls from participating in boys’ sports. “Let them try out for football,” he said.
“They are not asking to play boys’ sports. They are asking for a schedule that has equity,” Curry retorted.
Board President Brian Earley asked Barletta to prepare for the next athletic committee meeting an alternate schedule that could be used if the board decides to offer girls sports in the winter.