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Tuesday, June 3, 2014: Batavia settles Title IX complaint over softball

   Leading off today: The Batavia softball program will be playing in a $175,000 facility next spring following the resolution of a lawsuit against the school district, The Batavia Daily News reported.

   As part of the agreement, the district plan for the softball field calls for permanent dugouts, outfield fencing, a permanent electronic scoreboard and other amenities, Superintendent Chris Daily told the newspaper. The work was proposed as part of a larger capital improvement project rejected by district voters in 2011. A revised softball proposal, including improvements to the junior varsity and modified fields, passed in a May 2013 vote.

   The agreement presumably resolves the lawsuit filed by three softball players in April 2013 over concerns that the school's baseball program had access to better facilities at the school and at the local professional team's stadium.    The lawsuit alleged that the district's use of Dwyer Stadium for varsity baseball home games at the same time the softball team was using substandard school fields violated the 1972 Title IX statute.

   "More than anything, I am so proud of these young women for having the courage to stand up for themselves," said Kristin Small, attorney for Empire Justice Center, which represented the plaintiffs. "They saw that the way they were being treated was unfair and decided to do something about it, knowing full well they might face backlash from their community and that they themselves might never see the benefit of their efforts."

   More on Batavia: Near the end of the story from the Batavia Daily News, there was an interesting and significant note that "The district ... affirmed its commitment to ensuring that boys' and girls' sports receive equal benefits, even when that requires the district to compensate for donations made by third parties, such as booster clubs."

   That's no small issue in the world of Title IX. A couple of months ago, I noted in a blog that a Michigan school district agreed to tear down a new grandstand adjacent to its baseball diamond -- paid for by parents -- because an anonymous complaint said the new seating was nicer than the girls' softball bleachers.

   In that dispute, district officials said they did not have the money for new softball bleachers and would dismantle and store the baseball stands until they can come up with a plan that adheres to government rules.

   On a lot of levels, the idea of "equal benefits" is sensible and easily implemented. If the boys soccer team is playing on the school's lighted field a couple of Friday nights each season, there's no reason the girls team shouldn't be doing the same.

   However -- and you just knew there was a "however" -- what if there were side-by-side programs at a school -- that simply weren't equal? Here's where I'm going with this:

   There are certain situations out there where the comparable boys and girls teams compete at a high level and, as a result, get to travel to some pretty cool places. Saratoga cross country and Christ the King basketball would certainly fit that description, with each sending their boys and girls teams on the road for some major in-season competitions hundreds of miles outside the state.

   But there are literally hundreds of situations across the state and thousands nationally where the boys basketball team is far more accomplished than the girls basketball team or the softball team is an annual championship contender while the baseball team struggles.

   So what happens if one of the school's basketball teams gets invited to a big national holiday tournament, complete with some comped hotel rooms and a few bucks to help defray airfare? Does the school district have to turn it down? Should the athletic department be prohibited from kicking in a few dollars from the discretionary account to help out even if the school's two teams are otherwise treated exactly the same?

   More than 40 years after the implementation of Title IX,

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    teams are still traveling. So someone obviously has drawn a distinction that addresses the above example. Then again, times change and so do the rules. Any chance this becomes a future battleground?

       State golf tourney: Section 5 has its sixth NYSPHSAA boys golf champion in nine seasons following Jack Gianniny's two-under-par 69 in Monday's second round of the tournament on the Robert Trent Jones Course at Cornell University.

       The Pittsford Sutherland senior finished with a 36-hole total of even-par 142 in emerging from a four-way tie for the lead after the first round Sunday.

       Gianniny, who won the Section 5 championship last month, birdied four of his first five holes to break away.

       "That was crazy. I was feeling it early," Gianniny told the Democrat and Chronicle. "That was a great booster. It was nice to get that edge and start off strongly to get ahead of my competitors."

       Shenendehowa's Kyle Mathews, another of the first-round co-leaders, finished second at 73-72--145. Mathews pulled into a tie with Gianniny at No. 14 before making back-to-back bogeys.

       Fellow Sutherland golfer Andrew Kay started Section 5's run of championships in 2006, followed by McQuaid's Dom Bozzelli ('08, '09), Penfield's Yarik Merkulov ('10) and Pittsford Mendon's Gavin Hall ('11).

       "It feels incredible," Gianniny said. "It's such a relieving feeling to accomplish something you worked so hard for."

       Sec. 9 investigation update: John S. Burke Catholic officials have until Friday to respond to Section 9 about allegations that the boys' basketball team recruited players, the Times Herald-Record reported.

       Section 9 Executive Director Bob Thabet said the school's response will be reviewed at the June 12 athletic council meeting. The outcome will largely be dictated by Burke's response, with Thabet saying he hopes to have the matter settled by September.

       "We might schedule some extra meetings during the summer to make sure we get all of this taken care of," Thabet told the paper. "Some schools have brought forth some serious charges and we want to give Burke Catholic a chance to respond to them."

       Allegations of improper recruiting were lodged in early May in a report by a law firm acting on behalf of the Middletown, Washingtonville, Monroe-Woodbury, New Paltz and Valley Central school's districts. The firm's eight-page report includes 10 specific allegations of recruiting, with assistant coach Bobby Rahn mentioned in nine of them, the paper reported.

       According to the law firm's report, Rahn used his B.C. Eagles AAU team to recruit opposing players. Burke officials have denied similar claims in the past.

       Middletown superintendent Ken Eastwood told the paper he has heard from three additional families since the report became public alleging inappropriate recruitment.

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