Lake Oswego High's turf softball field delayed until mid-May
A turf field for the Lake Oswego High School softball team will not be ready for the start of the 2018 season as required by a settlement reached last year in a federal Title IX lawsuit filed against the school district.
LOSD Assistant Superintendent Michael Musick told the School Board on Monday night that construction of the field has been delayed by City regulations involving the installation of a water retention system under or adjacent to the field, which is located across Country Club Road from LOHS at Lake Oswego Junior High.
"Part of the settlement agreement is that LOJ will be turfed," Musick said. "We have been working very closely with the City on the permitting and the water mitigation. That has been a huge challenge for us."
He said the district had anticipated the field being ready for the start of the upcoming season, but that officials now hope to have the improvements in place by mid- to late May.
"When we finally got the settlement agreement signed and got the architects and all of the permitting done, we then had discussions about water mitigation. These are brand new regulations, and basically we have to create a water retention system underneath or adjacent to the turf field," Musick told the board. "That was brand new. It's never been expected before when turf fields are built. So we had to design it, submit it and it had to be approved. That was the cause of the delay."
School Board member Bob Barman noted the benefits of mitigating runoff from the field. "The City put that into place because our watershed feeds into the lake, which feeds into the Willamette River and causes algae blooms," he said. "It's a great regulation and it's necessary."
Ironically, drainage issues were a significant part of the Title IX lawsuit, which was filed by 10 current and former members of the LOHS softball team. According to the lawsuit, the girls had to play on an off-campus dirt field with no hitting facility while the boys baseball team used an on-campus field with artificial turf and a hitting facility that the girls were not allowed to use because it also doubled as a locker room.
The result, the lawsuit claimed, was that the softball team could not practice hitting on rainy days, and games and practices were frequently canceled because of inferior drainage on the dirt field.
The lawsuit, which was first filed in April 2016, also alleged that the softball team had been denied equal access to the kinds of equipment, funding and fundraising opportunities provided to the baseball team. That violated provisions of Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex "under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance," the plaintiffs claimed.
Lawyers for the school district and the softball team reached a tentative agreement in July 2017 and signed official settlement papers in the fall.
In addition to improvements to the softball facilities — including a hitting faciltiy, dugouts, drinking fountains, lights and a public address system, among other things — the 30-page deal also required that the district step up its efforts to recruit female athletes and add more opportunities for them to participate, including adding no-cut teams to many sports.
The district and the school also agreed to make more locker rooms available for girls, equally publicize and promote boys and girls teams and apportion coaches equitably.
Musick addressed many of those requirements in his presentation Monday, saying the district has hired a Title IX consultant to help it work through the settlement issues. Among other things, he said, the district is targeting travel and per diem allowances; coaching; locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; medical and training facilities and services; and publicity in the current school year.
Stuart Ketzler, the district's assistant superintendent for business, also will launch a fundraising committee later this month, Musick said. One potential outcome will be developing a plan to address the disparity between the funds raised for boys teams and girls teams.
In an effort to increase girls' participation in sports, Musick said, the district has added interscholastic water polo and lacrosse teams for female athletes and made volleyball and soccer no-cut sports. That has helped narrowed the gap between male and female athletes from 6 percent in 2016-17 to 2.53 percent this spring — well under the requirements of the Title IX settlement, Musick said.
Still, he added, the goal is equal participation and "we are still very far away."
"In realty, we still have a lot more boy participants, so we need to have more girls participating," Musick said. "The goal is to have 100 percent of our students participating in extracurricular activities. We have an opportunity to create 7,000 success stories. If we can create success for our students in and out of the classroom, that's the goal."