The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has demanded that the state Department of Education ensure female athletes in public schools have access to the same amenities as male athletes, as required by federal law.
The letter was sent in response to a Civil Beat article published last week that chronicled the experiences of female athletes at James Campbell High School, where only male athletes have their own locker rooms.
The Title IX Amendments of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1972 — championed by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink of Hawaii — was enacted to prevent gender discrimination in schools that receive federal dollars. Title IX requires equal resources be allocated to male and female programs, including athletics.
Campbell High girls track members practice on the field. Campbell provides an athletic locker room for male students but not for female students.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
More than 16,000 Hawaii girls participated in high school sports last school year, but eight of Oahu’s 23 high schools do not have separate locker facilities for female athletes. The same is true for two of 10 Big Island high schools, two of five Maui high schools and one of three Kauai high schools, according to a statewide athletic master plan created by the DOE in 2016.
The ACLU pointed out in its letter that a locker room and weight room for female athletes at Kailua High School were “wish list” items on the DOE’s statewide master plan.
“Simply put, it is unfair and illegal that the female athletes of Hawaii have been denied full, equal access to the DOE’s athletic programs for this long … nearly half a century after Hawaii’s own Congresswoman Patsy Mink succeed in shepherding Title IX into law,” the letter states.
The letter demands that DOE come up with a plan, complete with “firm construction dates,” to build the facilities needed for gender equality. If construction isn’t feasible, male and female athletes must equally share existing facilities, the ACLU wrote.
The letter referenced a lawsuit brought by ACLU against the DOE in 2010. Several varsity softball players at Maui’s Baldwin High alleged the quality of the county field they practiced in was nowhere near comparable to the War Memorial Complex where the boys’ baseball team practiced.
The ACLU has scheduled a meeting with the DOE on Friday to discuss the matter, said ACLU Executive Director Josh Wisch, and the department has been given until March 12 to respond with a plan. Otherwise, legal action will be taken, the letter says.
Wisch noted that the statewide athletic master plan was released in 2016 and the DOE may have made progress since then.
“The Department has received the letter, which is now under review,” DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz wrote in an email Monday afternoon. “Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will be meeting with ACLU later this week to address its concerns.”