In the fall of 2008, CWLC received another phone call regarding softball facilities being inferior to baseball facilities. This time it was a West High School (WHS) softball player’s mom who took the initiative. After the call, female athletes and their parents joined forces to remedy the situation.
In its investigation, CWLC found that the boys’ baseball facility was vastly superior to the girls’ softball field. The boys’ field had cinderblock dugouts, an electronic scoreboard, sufficient bleachers, a batting cage, a team room, and adequate fencing. The boys’ baseball team also had an experienced and successful long-term coaching staff and three team levels, varsity, junior varsity and frosh/soph. In contrast, the girls’ softball field had open, chain link dugouts, no electronic scoreboard, no batting cage, dilapidated bleachers, no team room, and an insufficient and dangerous lack of space between the playing field and the dugout area. The girls’ junior varsity softball team was forced to play on a grass infield and an outfield that contained dangerous post-holes and doubled as a practice field for other boys’ sports teams—creating an impractical and hazardous situation. Finally, the girls’ softball program had been plagued with significant coaching turnover and inexperienced coaches.
CWLC investigated the matter and in November 2008, CWLC sent a demand letter to WHS and the Torrance Unified School District to address the drastic inequalities in the athletic facilities and programs. These inequalities included giving the boys’ teams:
- superior facilities
- priority scheduling for games and practices
- more, newer, and better maintained equipment, uniforms, and supplies
- more experienced and better compensated coaches
Although the softball parents had complained to school officials about the disparity between the softball and baseball programs, and had received an inadequate response, CWLC’s demand letter got their attention.
WHS and the District responded to the letter within six days and began to make the requested changes almost immediately. WHS Principal Ben Egan commented that “once the discrepancies were pointed out, we worked with the District and parents to remedy the situation in a timely and cost-efficient manner.” Their prompt action included ensuring that the girls’ junior varsity field was completed before the 2009 softball season began and while the parties were still negotiating over other issues.
In August 2009, the parties agreed to settle the matter. As part of the settlement agreement, WHS and the District agreed to improve the varsity softball field before the start of the 2010 season by increasing the distance between the infield and the dugouts, as well as to install an electronic scoreboard, new spectator bleachers, an enclosed dugout, a team room and a batting cage. In addition, WHS conducted a coaching survey to analyze the quality and quantity of its coaching staff for gender equity, conducted Title IX training for its coaches and athletics administrators.
Despite it taking a legal demand letter to get the attention of WHS and the District, the female athletes are grateful for the changes. Student Aletha Vassilakis commented that “it feels good to have the school recognize our rights and support our commitment to athletics” and “we are all excited about our new sports facilities.”
To go from here:
- Alhambra High School
- West High School