Looks like Lexington had a hand in igniting another revolution, only this one has to do with high school basketball.
Shortly before the basketball season began, the Middlesex League changed its schedule so that boys and girls teams play at opposite venues. Previously, the boys and girls varsity teams played doubleheaders at the same site.
It’s been reported that the last-minute schedule swapping was prompted when a Lexington parent threatened to sue over noncompliance with Title IX. But Kathryn Robb, the woman who triggered the change, claims she’s been beating the gender equity drum for more than a year – and never threatened legal action.
Passed in 1972, Title IX requires gender equity for boys and girls in all educational programs that receive federal funding. The law commonly comes up around athletics, and is the basis for Robb’s complaint against Lexington High and the Middlesex League.
The way basketball games were scheduled, the boys and girls varsity teams played doubleheaders and the girls almost always tipped off at 5:30 p.m., with the boys following at 7 p.m.
That the girls didn’t share the prime-time spot didn’t sit will with Robb, a law tutor and mother of five who says she’s been around basketball for most of her life. So, she brought it up with administrators at Lexington High School.
“My concern was it was an insidious message to girls that they were somehow less than the boys team,” Robb said in an interview last month. “This is Lexington, the ‘Birthplace of American Liberty,’ can we be in compliance with Title IX?”
Nothing came of her initial effort, so Robb brought it up again this past November. In response, Middlesex League athletic directors discontinued the doubleheaders that had been in place since the 1990s and announced the 2012-2013 schedule would have boys and girls teams playing in opposite locations, with all varsity start times on Tuesday and Friday being at 7 p.m.
While it’s Title IX complaint, Robb said she’s still not thrilled with the schedule. “In my opinion, they picked the least favorable option. It’s an improvement, but it’s not the best answer," she said.
She’s not the only one around the Middlesex League who thinks that either, according to reports.
Following an early December meeting, a number of Middlesex League athletes sought to keep the boys and girls varsity teams together and spilt equally the 5:30 and 7 p.m. start times. The ADs, however, opted to stick with the split locations.
Robb, whose daughter plays for the LHS varsity team, said she does not think it should be left up to the student-athletes to decide about scheduling and Title IX compliance.
“If we left this up to the players, perhaps we should doe the same with homework policies, vacation and even graduation requirements,” Robb said. “It’s up to the leaders and the administration and the parents to say what is equitable.”
Reached by email, Lexington High Athletic Director Naomi Martin declined to comment on how the scheduling change came about. She offered the following statement about how it’s working out this season, and looking forward:
Regarding the current schedule, I know that the support for both of our basketball programs has been great thus far. The boys and girls teams have been playing well and thus teacher-coaches, student-athletes and spectators have been enjoying the basketball played in Lexington this season. We look forward to more great games this season and continued support of our teams. I am confident that the discussion of basketball scheduling will come up at the end of the season, as it does for every sport in the Middlesex League.
Regardless of how the hoops schedules shape up in future seasons, the situation has got some people wondering whether other sports are Title IX compliant. For example, writing on Homenewshere.com, Mark Goodman asks the question: Is Middlesex League Hockey in Violation of Title IX Too?