LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – The Lake Oswego High School softball team has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school district.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in District Court, says the softball team hasn't been given the same benefits and treatment baseball players receive.
According to the lawsuit, the program has complained about the inequities for years but were told they won’t receive additional benefits unless the team “wins a state championship.” Also, a letter about the discrimination was sent to the superintendent, Title IX coordinators, school board, principal, two assistant principals and athletic director in March but no one responded, the lawsuit said.
Among the complaints of the plaintiffs, 10 softball players, is the lack of a hitting facility. They say the baseball team has an on-campus, enclosed hitting facility but the softball team does not. In addition, plans for a softball team hitting facility, which the lawsuit says secured funding from a large donation, were scrapped in early February. The school district said, “the hitting facility would not be constructed unless or until the Lake Oswego High School softball team ‘wins a state championship,’” according to the lawsuit. The players say the donation was then used for another sport.
“Their actions are clearly stating that they don’t think girls sports are as important as boys sports,” said Lake Oswego parent Kelly Deos.
The softball team also cites field disadvantages. The baseball team plays on an on-campus, artificial turf playing field that allows for play in all conditions while the softball team plays on a dirt field at the junior high that has drainage problems, which has led to the cancelation of practices and games, according to the lawsuit. The players say they are not allowed to practice on the baseball or football teams’ artificial turf fields.
“This isn’t a fight against the boys baseball team. We support them in everything they do. We’re excited to see them win. It’s just frustrating that we still don’t get the same opportunities as them, the same equipment, the same facilities,” said softball player Lauren Working.
“All the girls sports, all the sports at the school deserve equal opportunities, equal playing fields,” Working said. “All we’re trying to do is leave a legacy for the girls behind us.”
Here's a look at more differences, according to the lawsuit:
- The baseball team has concessions, seating, a press box, sound system and dugouts with fountains.
- The softball team doesn’t have water fountains in the dugout, a press box, sound system or a United States flag for the pre-game national anthem.
- The baseball team has an athletic trainer available during games.
- The softball team “is not even provided with a basic first aid kit.”
The lawsuit also claims a disparity in opportunities for additional funding.
The school district on Tuesday released a statement on the lawsuit:
"A Title IX lawsuit has been filed against the district alleging gender discrimination by denying equal athletic treatment and benefits for the Lake Oswego High School girls softball program. The district has a long history of supporting athletic opportunities for its female athletes and has been working on plans to improve practice and playing conditions for the Lake Oswego High School softball team. Some improvements have already been made, such as providing suitable inclement weather practice opportunities for girls softball and an upgrade to the indoor softball batting cage. Additional planning, coordination and equipment are required to further improve conditions and the district expects those will be in place within the next several weeks."
KGW's Christine Pitawanich contributed to this story.