Ottawa Hills girls’ soccer and lacrosse supporters made their case today to the board of education that their teams should be given high school varsity sport designations, in an effort to bring the district in compliance with federal law.
The players, parents, and coaches for each team have led parallel drives in recent years to gain official recognition from the district, using as part of their arguments the disparity between varsity athletic offerings at Ottawa Hills High School -- nine for boys, seven for girls. The inequity puts the district out of compliance with Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 prohibiting gender discrimination in any school program, including team athletics, that receives federal financial assistance.
The school board is considering a plan to bring the district into compliance - potentially adding one or both sports - and allowed representatives from each team to address the board. Players and their supporters packed the board room, with the lacrosse team particularly boisterous.
Kym Lemieux, parent coordinator for the lacrosse team, said that more girls play lacrosse than on any varsity girls sport at the high school, an evidence of the sport's popularity in the village.
"The school needs female athletes," she said. "We have female athletes."
Ms. Lemieux said she believed adopting the lacrosse team as a varsity sport would satisfy Title IX, a point disputed by soccer boosters.
Paul Lyon, president of Ottawa Hills Girls Club Soccer, told board members that the girls team won its league championship and will advance to state tournament play, and said they have significant support in the community. Girls lacrosse and soccer shouldn't have to be competing for a varsity spot, he said.
"I think there's more than enough room for two varsity teams here," he said.
Board President Gary Wilson said he expects the board will make a decision on the teams at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 16.