Girls’ locker rooms in governor’s budget, but advocates say more needs to be done

Girls’ locker rooms in governor’s budget, but advocates say more needs to be done

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige unveiled a budget proposal Monday that includes $400 million over the next two years for school improvements, including the building of facilities for girls athletics.

“That would mean $16.2 million in (fiscal year) 2019 and $22 million in FY ’20 for girls athletics and locker rooms in high schools all across the state,” said Ige.

The proposal comes several weeks after a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Campbell High School seniors on the girls' swimming and water polo teams who have no locker room facilities.

“This has been an inequity that has been highlighted in recent years and we are committed to making investments so that we can provide equal opportunities in athletics to all of our students,” the governor said.

Advocates say the projects are a step in the right direction.

“We’re glad to see that the governor seems to be prioritizing equity, but now we need to see if the DOE, the Department of Education, is going to commit to treating female athletes equally under the law,” said Joshua Wisch, executive director of ACLU Hawaii, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Campbell High students.

The DOE’s 2016 statewide athletic plan showed that there are 14 schools that have male locker rooms, but none for female athletes. The lawsuit could force the DOE to provide equal facilities.

The DOE said that it has already completed improvements to athletic facilities at several schools, including building new female locker rooms at Kaiser, Kalani, and McKinley high schools and Kahuku High & Intermediate School. There were also locker room improvements made at Kealakehe, Leilehua, Mililani and Moanalua high schools.

The department said it requested $45 million in capital improvements over the next two years.

The ACLU says, however, that it’s not enough to meet the Title IX requirements for equal facilities and treatment for female athletes.

“It’s not just about the locker rooms. It’s not just about the money,” said Wisch. “Girls are not getting as much practice time as boys are. Girls sports aren’t as advertised as boys sports are.”

A DOE spokeswoman said the department “recently created 15 equity specialize positions to support schools and provide guidance on how to be operationally compliant with Title IX.” The department also said that it takes the issue very seriously, adding, “Equitable access to a quality public education -- including extracurricular and elective activities -- is at the core of the department’s commitment to student excellence and success.”

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