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Fouled Out

A Lexington parent caught most of the blame, but it was a now-suspended AD’s doctored emails that spurred the Middlesex League’s Title IX-driven decision to discontinue its doubleheader scheduling format for boys and girls basketball.

 

The story went something like this: A Lexington parent was threatening to sue, so the Middlesex League deep-sixed its doubleheader scheduling format, which had been in place since the mid-1990s.

That was the yarn spun at the start of the 2012-2013 basketball season. It was fodder for players, parents, fans and bystanders -- and, of course, the media, including Patch.

Most likely, it was reported that way because that’s how the coaches and athletic directors told it to reporters and editors. And most likely that’s how they told the story because that’s how they heard it themselves.

Except only that’s not how it went down.

It’s true that Lexington resident Kathryn Robb is at the bottom of it. For two years Robb has been pushing the envelope around Title IX and urging school officials to give the boys and girls basketball teams equal opportunity in the 7 p.m., “prime time” spot of their doubleheaders.

Where the narrative diverges from reality is around how Robb went about achieving that end.

According to documents released earlier this week, Robb never threatened legal action against Lexington, let alone the Middlesex League. In fact, she was closer to the opposite. (Robb's email is posted above as a PDF.)

Those two points were the emphasis added by Lexington Athletic Director Naomi Martin in what she now describes as an effort to “bolster” the case for Title IX compliance in her own correspondence with Middlesex League ADs. (Martin's email is posted above as a PDF.)

Fact and fiction began separating after a FOIA request in mid-December. And, since last weekend, Martin has been given a week of unpaid leave, she emailed an apology to Robb and Lexington’s superintendent has sent an email to Middlesex League ADs to “correct the record.”

(The superintendent's email is posted above as a PDF, as is Martin's apology.) 

SORTING OUT THE DETAILS

A mother of five and basketball-lifer, Kathryn Robb has been beating the Title IX drum for at least two years, saying the girls basketball team was too often the opening act of doubleheaders while the boys team enjoyed the “prime time” spot.

In an email to LHS Principal Laura Lasa sent Nov. 14, 2012, Robb expressed her dismay over Lexington High basketball's continued noncompliance with Title IX. Robb wrote that she may be what school officials consider a "pain in the ass parent,” and described the tension between her and the AD as "practically palpable."

Robb did not threaten to file suit with Office of Civil Rights, nor did she threaten to go to the Globe, nor did she mention the Middlesex League. But Naomi Martin’s Nov. 15 group email the Middlesex League athletic directors says she did.

According to a press release from Robb’s attorneys, Martin’s email to the Middlesex League ADs—which does not mention Robb by name—contains seven false references to the Middlesex League and 18 additional discrepancies. In some places, Martin misrepresents the parent’s position, and in others she fabricates content presented as though it’s a direct quote.

For instance, this:

I provided you and the LHS athletic administration with useful and clear information on the law of Title IX (federal statute and case law). I offered reasonable solutions. And, I waited patiently for LHS to be in compliance.

Became this:

I provided you and the LHS athletic administration with useful and clear information on the law of Title IX (federal statute and case law). I offered reasonable solutions. And, I waited patiently for LHS to be in compliance. The time is now, and the paperwork is prepared for the Boston Globe and for the OCR. I eagerly await the response of the Middlesex League and Lexington High School.

The crux of Martin’s email was requesting permission from the league to allow Lexington to play a single-gender basketball schedule in order to bring the program in compliance with Title IX. Permission was granted on Nov. 20, and the decision was upheld Dec. 4, despite student athletes appealing to the ADs with another option.

As the season got started, Robb started catching flack over the new schedule. So much so that she’s been staying away from the games – allegedly at the request of her daughter who plays on the LHS girls team. A common question, she says, was “Why would you do this, Kathryn?”

All the while, Robb maintained that she never wanted this change—her preferred option would have been to keep the doubleheader format with 7 p.m. start times divvied up evenly between the boys and girls—and that she never threatened legal action.

According to one of Robb’s attorneys, she first saw Martin’s doctored email on Nov. 30, when an angry coach from another school showed it to her. In mid-December, Robb’s legal team began using public records requests to obtain access to this and other emails around Title IX and the scheduling changes, the attorney said.

Around that same time, Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash became aware of the discrepancies between Robb’s email and the way her email was quoted in Martin’s communication to the Middlesex League ADs.

Upon looking into the matter, Ash “made a determination that a public apology was appropriate,” Karen Schwartzman, a communications consultant retained by the Lexington Public Schools earlier in the 2012-2013 school year, wrote in an email to Patch.

Last Saturday, Jan. 19, Martin emailed her apology to Robb. That same day, Ash sent an email to the same audience of athletic directors in which he sought to “correct the record” and called Martin’s actions “unacceptable.”

Via Schwartzman, the district declined to comment further with regard to the apology or the timing of it. In addition to the apology, Martin has been placed on a one-week unpaid leave, which starts today, Jan. 24.

In a press release, Robb said she was not satisfied with Martin’s apology, which she thinks does not offer “a meaningful explanation of her motives and action.”

“I am a forgiving person by nature,” said Robb, “But I fail to see why the need to achieve gender equality in interscholastic basketball had to be ‘bolstered’ or why it had to be bolstered by maliciously targeting a parent who has devoted 20 years of volunteer service in youth sports to this community.”

Friend of LHS athletics January 24, 2013 at 04:35 PM
What else did she lie about? I would be asking for an audit of the finances of that department? If telling our children that it's ok to lie and cheat to get what you want, then the goal has been accomplished.
lexington tax payer January 24, 2013 at 05:55 PM
this is a classis progressive move----the end justifies the means. she should be removed from her position.
john igoe January 24, 2013 at 07:36 PM
I fully support an audit of the financial structure of the LHS athletic program. This should include all monies related to the basketball programs.Including the concession stand and any type of clinic proceeds. In addition all major decisions regarding appointments to positions during her tenure should be reviewed. It is very possible she fabricated information related to the situation and hiring of new staff members to promote her own agenda. We all must speak up and put pressure on the School Adminstration to publicly review this situation. They have already proven they are going to deal with this behavior that could possibly be criminal in nature by trying to move on or focus us on Title IX compliance. This is not about compliance it is about intergrity, honesty and trust. All of which Ms Martin has demonstrated she is not worthy of. I call on Ms Martin to resign from her position and alleviate the pain and suffering she has caused our town and our students. John Igoe
Lexington Parent January 25, 2013 at 01:51 AM
This is a rather simple story. Martin lied, libeled and slandered a member of the Lexington community who simply asked for equal treatment of male and female athletes. I agree with those who are calling for an audit of the athletic department's finances. When Martin is willing to completely change the intent of another person's email, distribute it as a threat to the Middlesex League ADs to stampede them into a decision to change the schedule in a single day (although as it turns out there was no actual threat) and damage the parent's reputation in town and in surrounding towns, what unethical acts is Martin unwilling to do if it serves her own purposes. She cannot be allowed to continue in a position of authority in the Lexington School System. Who can ever trust her after this? Finally, the one week suspension is a slap on the wrist and an insult to the town. We deserve more principled leadership in our school system. As the Greeks say, the fish rots from the head. Ash's credibility is also gone now.
Jasonag11 January 25, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Well said Mr Igo..she has destroyed the athletic program..I've watched a ton of games over the last 20 years and kills me to see the program dead..bring Brinklow back
butch lee January 25, 2013 at 02:15 AM
me thinks the principal "reviewed" this letter back in the fall.....lexington is protecting the principal....integrity is one thing....your clock guy is slow of hand when lex has the ball down 2...someone being a homer that;s all...changing an email is really devoid of ethics, morals, leadership, and has not read the lex student handbook
Mark January 25, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Paul Ash “made a determination that a public apology was appropriate,” and this, Naomi's "email was well intentioned". Are you kidding me? Ash needs to be reprimanded for tolerating such lies. Does anyone in Lexington have any integrity whatsoever? Fire Naomi and a severe reprimand is in order for Ash. As taxpayers we deserve better and our children definitely don't deserve a group of unethical administrators.
Rick Jackson January 30, 2013 at 03:56 AM
She lied in her letter - got caught - essentially got fined $2000 and publicly humiliated. Probably good enough punishment, though they could have fired her too. Not sure I see the connection to a financial audit. Besides the athletic money is small potatoes in a $70 million budget. I mostly feel bad for the parent - she didn't deserve this. However, most of the folks calling for Martin's head now are old friends of Bob Farias who have never gotten over his firing. They want the old boy network back in and have NO genuine sympathy for Ms. Robb's Title IV argument. LHS Boys Hoops was great on the court before - but they lived by their own rules and told the AD and the Principal what to do, instead of the other way around. Not sure we want to go back to "the good old days."
billwellogic September 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM
If there ever was an issue that defined adage "If its not broken don't fix it", then this is it. Let's prioritize returning the the schedule that had been working for everyone for 30 years, that the female athletes themselves are asking the league to reinstate. That clearly is the first order of business. Then address the systematic failure of the bureaucratic reaction to this one parent's vision of how things "should be".

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