Preparation for
gender equity suit under way

Advocates say they're tired of
waiting for change

By Pat Bigold

A leading gender equity advocate says the time has passed for threatening the state with a lawsuit.

Jill Nunokawa, president of the Gender Equity Sports Club, said she will begin spending her spare hours preparing a suit to force the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and other parties to obey the requirements of Title IX and Hawaii state law.

Nunokawa said other parties in the suit might include the Board of Education, the superintendent of schools, and the executive secretaries of the state's five leagues.

"I'm definitely committing myself to it," said Nunokawa. "All I have gotten from these people (HHSAA) is b.s. That's the truth. I've been challenged by every entity, including the Board of Education."

Nunokawa said she doesn't even have to use Title IX to achieve her goal of gender equity.

"There's our equal rights amendment," she said. "We were the first state to pass the equal rights amendment a couple of decades ago. And there's a Hawaii Revised Statute (296-61) that says, 'no person in the state of Hawaii shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational or recreational program or activity receiving state or county financial assistance or utilizing state or county facilities.' "

Nunokawa and Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, an assistant University of Hawaii athletic director who is considered an expert on Title IX, last year sought to move the girls' basketball season from spring to the winter. They said that the rest of the nation plays in the winter and that is when colleges do most of their recruiting.

They also sought to put girls in facilities similar to the boys for their state tournaments. Due to a scheduling conflict in Hilo, the girls got a chance to play the state basketball tournament in the Special Events Arena this year. But HHSAA officials say the 1997 state tournament will be held in Hilo.

The Oahu interscholastic Association will hold its girls' semifinals and championship basketball games at the Blaisdell Arena next year, if scheduling allows.

"I don't feel uncomfortable about a suit because our vision is like her vision," said OIA executive secretary Ted Fukushima. "We'd like to take care of the equity thing."

Nanakuli High principal Al Nagasako, who is president of both the HHSAA and the OIA, said he doesn't want a lawsuit and still needs clarification about whether or not his associations are in violation of Title IX.

"I need to speak with our gender equity committee, and possibly meet with the Office of Civil Rights liaison," said Nagasako.

Nunokawa said she takes strong exception to the unwillingness of incoming HHSAA executive director Dwight Toyama to support the idea of aligning the girls' and boys' basketball seasons. Toyama will succeed Ed Kiyuna in the position on July 1.

But Nagasako said the HHSAA needs more data to show that aligning the seasons would make a difference for the girls involved.

"There's no question that Jill's got a point," said Nagasako. "But after talking to our people, I'm sure we're making efforts toward providing more opportunities and getting more press for our girls."

Their efforts have fallen short of true gender equity, Nunokawa said.

"I told those guys last year in May that I'm willing to cooperate in good faith toward a solution to the problem," said Nunokawa. "In over one year, their efforts have been minimal at best. Now they know I'm on the warpath. They know it well. They've been pushing me, and I'm ready to rock 'n roll."

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