WATCH: Lexington Parent Files Title IX Complaint for Unsafe Softball Fields
A Lexington High School parent has filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights
LEXINGTON, S.C. (WOLO) – A Lexington High School parent has filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
The parent, Sam Light, along with a handful of others, says the girls’ softball facilities at Lexington High School are unsafe and outdated compared to the baseball facilities. Another concerned parent, Patrick Montgomery, who has two daughters on the J.V. team, points to a lack of lighting in the outfield, grates, uneven ground and worn netting that’s too short. He also notes a three-foot tall backstop behind home plate, with little padding.
“As far as I know, a female knee and a male knee are the same, most of the body is the same,” Montgomery said. “When you look at the boys field, you see high padding, high nets.”
Title IX requires schools that receive federal dollars to offer equal participation opportunities to both sexes, and treat them equally when it comes to all components of an opportunity. It does not require the same amount of money to be spent on both sexes.
“I love the fact the boys have what they have,” Montgomery says, “and I appreciate the boys’ baseball program, but we are a sister to baseball, we are softball, and I want the same opportunity and access.”
The Lexington High School baseball stadium was upgraded along with the football stadium using extra money from a 2008 bond referendum. About $5 million worth of work was done. As part of the deal, the softball field got a $16,000 scoreboard.
Lexington County School District One tells ABC Columbia it’s not aware of any safety issues with the field. The district tells us maintenance inspects all fields and lights before each sport’s season. The district says it has not received a Title IX complaint yet, so, they did not want to provide someone to speak on camera. Instead, they provided a statement, reading, “Should, however, there be an OCR complaint, the district will work with the Office of Civil Rights. Should the OCR decide the district is out of compliance, the district will develop a plan to address any of their concerns.”
According to the National Women’s Law Center, South Carolina ranks 45th in the nation when it comes to gender equity gaps in sports.
At the Wildcats softball field, the girls have to change in a two-stall bathroom, their batting cage is walled with netting, and their dugout has nails sticking through the roof. It’s a much different picture at the baseball field.
Montgomery is a 20-plus-year military veteran. He says he’s coached softball, soccer, and baseball for just as long.
“And I have never seen the disparity of women to men, girls to boys, as I’ve seen in this town, when it comes to this field,” he says. “Frankly it’s embarrassing and shocking, and I have to question why people are not stepping up.”
ABC Columbia did request to see a list of expenditures for all the sports in the school’s athletics program for the past five years. The school says one week was not enough time to compile the information. We will bring you the information once it’s in our possession.
The school could tell us that this year’s athletics budget allocates $3,000 for softball and $2,000 for baseball.
The district says administrators have met with concerned parents, and they visited the field. They’re looking at options for addressing some of these worries. Any big changes will be considered as part of a district-wide study looking at facility needs.