Yesterday a federal district court judge in Hawaii ruled in favor of the girls’ softball team at Baldwin High School, in Maui County, who had sued the county and the state board of education over the condition of the softball field. According to the press, the judge held that the “obvious disparity” in quality between the boys’ baseball field, of “near semi-professional” quality, and the girls’ softball field, which is not regulation size, a mile from campus, and dangerously strewn with rocks and stones, violated Title IX, and ordered the state and county to make improvements to the field where the softball team used to play before being relocated to the county-owned field.
While I applaud the decision for recognizing and ordering remediation for the disparate playing conditions, I don’t understand why the judge has held the county partially responsible for ensuring equality between the fields. Hawaii has a statewide school district rather than local districts, so that explains why the state board of education is the educational institution on the hook for violations of Title IX. But it seems (from this article) that the board has made arrangements for softball to play on a county field rather than provide a field on school grounds. The board is surely liable for opting to use a county-owned softball field whose quality does not measure up to the baseball field, but this arrangement does not turn the county into an educational institution with an obligation to comply with Title IX. I’m guessing we haven’t heard the last chapter in this case; most local governments are strapped for cash these days, so I think the county is likely to appeal.