DOE could be sued over lack of female locker rooms – a violation of federal law
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's late congresswoman Patsy Mink was the driving force behind Title IX, which prohibits gender inequality in schools and universities.
Now – almost half a century after the landmark legislation became law – the state Department of Education is being accused of sex discrimination against thousands of high school female athletes.
The ACLU of Hawaii says a number of DOE schools do not have female locker rooms, even though they have facilities for male athletes.
The civil rights organization says this violates both state and federal laws, and if nothing changes, they're threatening to sue.
"In Kailua High School, getting a locker room for female athletes is on the wish list. This kind of thing can't be on the wish list. It's legally mandated and that's something they have to comply with," said Joshua Wisch, ACLU Hawaii's Executive Director.
Wisch sent a letter to education officials last week, demanding that all DOE schools be in compliance with Title IX by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
DOE's 2016 statewide athletic plan shows there were 14 schools that have male athletic locker rooms, but no facilities for females.
One of those schools is Campbell High School.
"Most of the girls are either changing in the cafeteria or they're storing their equipment throughout the day with teachers. They'll get with some of the teachers that support them a lot and they'll open up their classrooms so they can go change in there," said Tato Marrero, father of a Campbell High female athlete.
Marrero says he worries about the message this problem sends to their daughters.
"They feel like they're second class citizens when it comes to sporting events. It frustrates me. I mean, those are the things our kids should not have to deal with," Marrero said.
The ACLU has given DOE a deadline of one month to come up with a plan to provide all student athletes equal access to locker rooms.
"That could be either constructing new facilities for female locker rooms or it could be allowing alternating use of the facilities so that both men and women have the same access," said Wisch.
A DOE spokeswoman says the department has received the letter and schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto will be meeting with the ACLU on Friday.
Back in 2010, the ACLU sued DOE and Maui County on behalf of three female athletes at Baldwin High who alleged they were denied equal access to athletic facilities. A settlement was reached in that case.
This story may be updated.
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