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Fox Lane Softball Parents Continue to Press for Athletic Gender Equity

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A group of Fox Lane girls’ softball parents submitted a letter to Bedford school officials on Friday, detailing the steps they believe the district should take in order to deliver gender equity.

In the letter, parents claim the district is in violation of Title IX, a federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs or activities, including scholastic athletics that receive federal funding.

The district has already prepared a bond plan that includes investing about $880,000 toward upgrading the current dirt softball field, which is tucked away behind the middle school.

But the parents believe the current location of the field, and the level of investment for softball upgrades, fall short of what’s needed to elevate the softball program to achieve support that is on par with boys’ baseball, or generally what should be afforded to the female student-athletes.

The parents listed a dozen “asks” of school officials, and emphasized how they wanted the district to reconvene the bond committee to review options and also hire a Title IX consultant. 

“Because of the district’s limited knowledge and failure to engage the appropriate professionals, we are asking the board to reconvene the bond committee and hire a Title IX consultant to review the current plans before construction, as well as perform an audit of our entire athletic department for Title IX compliance,” the letter stated. 

In addition to the field relocation and the turf request, the parents cite equivalent training amenities, fan seating and locker room access among their list of requests.

The parents also said they’re concerned about what they characterize as school officials seeming not to have total command about Title IX rules at recent meetings. 

“The Athletic Director and Committee members admittedly lacked complete understanding of the Title IX Federal Law requiring equivalence in athletic programs, and they failed to seek guidance during their planning process from a compliance professional,” the letter said. “Throughout this process we have reached out to the two BCSD Title IX compliance officers on multiple occasions with one brief response, more than two months after our initial question submission, merely stating that district lawyers were reviewing.”

Board of Education President Edward Reder said the money set aside in the bond for the softball field is just for upgrades to the surface out of more than $7 million that will be spent on fields throughout the middle school and high school campus. In total, there will be about $1.6 million in work done around that field.

Furthermore, the field will be dedicated just for softball during the season and not used for middle school physical education classes as is now done with the current surface, Reder said.

School officials and the parent group have met twice during the past month to discuss the issues and try to resolve as many as possible, he said.

“We’ve been working very collaboratively with the parent group,” Reder said. “I’m glad to see they’re engaged, I’m glad to see them expressing their voice, and the district’s going to do everything it possibly can to meet or exceed most, if not all, of their concerns.”

However, Reder said it is likely that scope of last spring’s $62.3 million bond is set because it has already been approved by voters and sent to the state.

Bedford schools do have a Title IX coordinator, but Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Glass is receiving feedback from the parent group and will be examining whether the district is doing everything it can with respect to athletic equity, Reder added.

Last month, in an Examiner article about the softball equity conversation, Athletic Director Adam Lodewick stressed his support of addressing the broader issues. 

“Making sure all of our teams and programs are treated equally and are provided with the best environment, and the best opportunities for a positive and successful experience has been and always will be my number one priority,” Lodewick said. “There is an absolute need for the softball field to be upgraded and renovated. I am confident all the current issues will be addressed with the new upcoming bond project and give the coaches and student-athletes a state-of-the-art facility and one they can be proud of.”

The softball parents may address the issue at the Board of Education’s next meeting this Wednesday evening.

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