Apr 1 2014, 1:58pm CDT | by Forbes
I may already be too late to quell the outrage — or at least funnel it in the right direction — regarding the baseball boosters of Plymouth High School in suburban Detroit having to tear out seats it bought and installed on their own dime and time. But I want to correct one big whopper of a mistake that is bouncing its way across the rage-o-sphere: the federal government did NOT order the seats torn out as a remedy for a Title IX gender equity violation.
It’s just like how the federal government doesn’t tell a college violating Title IX that it has to cut the men’s wrestling program – under Title IX, it ensures that men and women have equal athletic opportunities. However, cuts in men’s sports have happened during the 42 years of Title IX, so there is a subset of people who believe it’s been responsible for a war on males. That subset is ready to pounce on any “evidence” that another shot in this War on Men’s Sports has been fired (while ignoring football’s role in squeezing out opportunities for males in other sports).
On March 28, the local Fox television station in Detroit provided some fuel for outrage. It reported that after boosters installed a seating deck and a scoreboard at the Plymouth High baseball field, a complaint came into the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that there might be a Title IX violation because similar work wasn’t done at school’s softball field. At one point, the report notes Plymouth-Canton Community Schools “agreed to take the seats down” to be in Title IX compliance.
Except that according to the investigative report on the complaint, which wasn’t quoted in the Fox Detroit story (and was about equality of facilities in general, not just about the seats and scoreboard), the district wasn’t asked to tear anything down — it was asked to build up. From the Department of Education’s report dated Oct. 31, 2013, which took a complete look at the district’s athletics programs and facilities for boys and girls:
If booster clubs provide benefits and services to athletes of one sex that are greater than what the district is capable of
providing to athletes of the other sex, then the district must take action to ensure that benefits and services are equivalent for both sexes. …/>
The District has signed the enclosed resolution agreement, which, once implemented, will fully address the information obtained during the investigation in accordance with Title IX. The agreement requires the District to: renovate the School’s varsity softball field to include a scoreboard and seating equivalent to what is provided at the School’s varsity baseball field; and provide the School’s girls’ lacrosse team with access to an on-campus practice facility equivalent to that provided to the boys’ lacrosse team.
However, because it’s a lot more fun to say the big, bad ol’ government is oppressing people, the Narrative (there’s always a Narrative) quickly established that the feds told the boosters to tear out the seats (or as often misreported, bleachers). Two of the boosters appeared March 30 on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” and it only took until the first question for them to be asked if this government-ordered seat removal wasn’t un-American. The boosters, apparently not regular viewers of “Fox & Friends,” seemed a little surprised by that line of questioning.
But if the federal government didn’t tell the boosters to remove the seats, then who did? I’ve sent emails to Plymouth-Canton Community Schools superintendent Michael Meissen and the district’s director of communications, Kate Dietrich, to find out what happened. At this writing I haven’t heard back from the district, but I’ve asked these questions, and I will relay their answers when I receive them:
According to the Fox Detroit report, the softball field is getting a new scoreboard. But as for the seats, were the softball team’s boosters given a chance to raise the $15,000 the baseball boosters told Fox & Friends they spent for their seating deck? Are the softball boosters still being given that chance, or are there other budgetary discussions, given that the baseball seats are being put into storage rather than being thrown out? Fox Detroit reported the seating deck had issues regarding accessibility for the disabled — is that why they were taken down? An anonymous athletic director is quoted in the education report that he didn’t like the seats because they were in the path to take a direct hit from foul balls — is that why they were taken out? Who actually ordered the seats be removed?
Somebody ordered that the seats be removed. But the evidence points to that somebody not being an employee of the federal government. I don’t blame the baseball boosters for being upset about having to tear apart what they worked hard to build. But if they or anyone else is going to get angry, they should make sure their displeasure is directed at the right people.
Source: Forbes Business
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