Parents with girls who plan to pursue high school sports, please take note. You may be surprised to learn 14 high schools do not have athletic lockers for female students, while having such facilities for male students.

They are Campbell High School, Kahuku High School, Kailua High School, Mililani High School, Moanalua High School, Pearl City High School, Radford High School, Waialua High School, Konawaena High School, Waiakea High School, Baldwin High School, Hana High School, Maui High School and Kauai High School.

The shortcomings in the treatment of female athletes by public high schools were uncovered by Civil Beat, and under current federal law, it’s illegal. The article prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to send a demand letter to the Department of Education demanding the situation be fixed by the next school year, 2018-19.

According to the article, the disparity between the boys’ and girls’ softball teams at James Campbell High School were stark.

Campbell High School baseball field, softball field and football fields lack restrooms, here are the 4 portable toilets that are paid for by the school and are the only toilets nearby the large sports field.
Campbell High School’s baseball, softball and football fields lack restrooms. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While the boys had dedicated facilities to change and store their equipment, the girls had to find sympathetic teachers to store their gear, had no changing area. In many cases, they had to change in the open while their teammates shielded them from view. Their practices were long and they often found the school’s restrooms were locked when they needed them.

The kicker? The girls’ varsity softball team were the state champions from 2015 to 2017, and Campbell High School serves one of the fastest-growing communities in the state.

All of this, of course, is a violation of Title IX law which bars federal funds from any institution that discriminates on the basis of gender. And yes, the DOE receives federal funds.

The Department of Education has money allocated for improvements, but it’ll be years — at the very least — before the Campbell High School’s student athletes see any improvements.

We feel the state has no excuse in this matter. Title IX’s policies have been part of the American education and higher education system for more than four decades.

A Larger Problem

The issues at Campbell are part of a larger problem of the state not taking Title IX seriously. We applaud the actions taken by the ACLU in the current case involving Campbell’s girls’ softball team. It brought to light other inequalities in girls’ high school athletics, such as the lack of a weight and locker room for female athletes at Kaiser High School.

We feel the state has no excuse in this matter.

As mentioned in both Civil Beat articles, Baldwin High School’s girls’ softball team had similar troubles and a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and attorneys from Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing to compel the DOE and the city and the County of Maui to build proper facilities for the softball team. They won, and the finding was released in a month, not years.

Title IX does not just protect high school and college athletes — it puts procedures in place that schools and universities must follow with regards to sexual assault prevention and investigation, as well as offering equal access to education.

The University of Hawaii Manoa was on a short list of universities under investigation for their handing of sexual assault cases in 2014. (The school was not being investigated for a complaint, but because of a “proactive compliance review,” according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights under then-President Obama.)

While most people see the effects of Title IX on college athletics, its effect can be seen in the number of women who attend college. According to the American Association of University Women, women now outnumber men at colleges and universities.

Seeing women in college in the middle of the 20th century was rare, and even then, it was assumed they were there to find a man to marry. Now there are no such assumptions, anyone is free to pursue academics, and yes, athletics in high school and college regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.

We also strongly support bills introduced by the state’s Women’s Legislative Caucus (House Bill 2139 and Senate Bill 2353) that will put into law prohibitions of sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive state funding.

These protections are important, as the Trump administration seems bent on stripping back protections for those who have needed, and continue to need, them most.

The progress that has been made in equal access to education cannot be left to assuming they’ll always be the law. As the recent attempts by the U.S. Department of Education demonstrated, the right of everyone to be educated and to be treated equally in schools must be enshrined at all levels.

Title IX is one of the most important pieces of legislation to ensure all students from elementary to graduate schools are treated fairly. It’s a shame that Hawaii, with its diversity in its population, continues to struggle with compliance with what should come naturally to a place with abundant plurality.

In 2002, Title IX was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, after our own representative. Hawaii should live up to Patsy Mink’s most enduring legacy to equal access to education in this country.

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