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Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

P R E P _ S P O R T S

Spring hoops
might not be
federal case

U.S. Education officials
address Hawaii girls'
basketball questions

By Dave Reardon

Boys and girls playing high school basketball during different seasons is not necessarily a violation of Title IX, representatives from the U.S. Education Department told state school officials yesterday.

But gender equity advocate Jill Nunokawa said that won't stop her from filing a lawsuit. Nunokawa wants Hawaii's girls' basketball teams to play in the winter as the boys do.

Title IX is federal law against sexual discrimination in interscholastic sports.

Hawaii is the only state in which girls play high school basketball in the spring (a few play in the fall and the vast majority play in the winter). Boys' high school and men's and women's college teams play in the winter.

Linda Rubin of the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, which monitors gender equity, indicated that is not necessarily a Title IX violation.

"There's nothing that says boys' and girls' basketball teams have to play at the same time as the college teams do," Rubin said.

"There is nothing in Title IX that says that boys and girls must play in the same season," added Randall Borkowski, also of the OCR.

"If we get a complaint that girls are disadvantaged by not (playing in the winter) then it would be looked at as one of many factors," Rubin said. "We would look at other sports as well. We would have to look at the (state's) entire athletic programs, scheduling for all teams, and all factors involved."

Nunokawa, a member of the state Advisory Commission on Gender Equity in Sports, said she would not make a complaint through the OCR, but instead file a lawsuit.

"Nothing legitimate goes through the Office of Civil Rights because of its conservative approach. If I thought that would work, I would have filed a complaint six years ago," Nunokawa said. "There will definitely be litigation."

Keith Amemiya, Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director, said Nunokawa is "forum shopping."

"For years Ms. Nunokawa has insisted that having different seasons for boys' and girls' basketball was a clear-cut Title IX violation. Now that the OCR has indicated otherwise, she says we should disregard the OCR and instead seek the opinion of a federal court.

"This isn't the presidential election, where you can try to forum shop until you get the answer you want to hear," Amemiya added.

Nunokawa said the states of Montana and Virginia recently were forced to change their seasons to the winter; Montana changed because of a ruling by its state Human Rights Commission, and Virginia switched because of the outcome of a class action lawsuit.

Amemiya said there are "substantive differences" in those states' situations from that of Hawaii.

"In Virginia, the girls were previously separated into two different seasons, which were changed every year, and the boys were not," he said.

"In Montana, the girls played in the less desirable season of the fall as opposed to the spring."

He added that Hawaii has an NCAA coaches' evaluation period of its own in the spring. Montana and Virginia did not have evaluation periods in their seasons that weren't in sync with the normal college recruiting windows.

Rubin and Borkowski are here at the request of the state DOE to provide technical assistance in the state's efforts to be Title IX compliant.

Rubin and Borkowski told a group including BOE members, DOE officials and staff, athletic directors, administrators and coaches that the OCR's function is to "ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation."

Title IX enforcement is one of five civil rights laws that fall under the OCR's oversight.

Although this two-day visit is educational, they said they also investigate complaints. No complaint has been lodged against the state of Hawaii, and compliance is not tested unless there is a complaint, they said.

"Ultimately, if there's a violation and refusal to correct it, federal money could be taken away," Rubin said. "We sit down with officials and try to get them into compliance."

The OCR says in order to be in Title IX compliance, at least one of three conditions must be met:

Bullet Proportional representation of girls and boys in interscholastic athletics.

Bullet History and continuing practice of expanding participation opportunities for the underrepresented sex.

Bullet Full and effective accommodation of the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex.

Rubin and Borkowski declined to speculate if Hawaii is in compliance. They said compliance is only investigated by their office if a complaint is filed.

"Prior to their visit everyone had their opinions," said Tom Yamashita, director of the state Education Department's Civil Rights Compliance Office.

"Now some of that is out of the way and we can move on to action. This should go a long way toward equity."

Borkowski stressed that gender equity does not require that girls' sports be identical to boys' sports.

"At the time Title IX was created (in 1972) there was a conscious decision not to mandate that female sports be identical with male sports," Borkowski said. "There has never been a legal expectation under Title IX that each area or sport be identical."


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