AD responds to column, clarifies requirements

To the editor:

This letter is in response to the commentary by Jeff Fishbein “We’ve made strides under Title IX, but the question remains: Is it equal?”

First of all, I’d like to clarify a few things about Title IX and the idea of being “equal.” There is a common misconception that under Title IX spending for sports should be equal. For example, many believe that the amount of money spent on boys’ sports supplies and equipment should be equal to the amount of money spent on girls’ sports supplies and equipment. However, this is not the case. Football is a very expensive sport with different needs such as helmets and shoulder pads to ensure the safety of the players. As long as the school is not intentionally buying more expensive equipment for boys’ sports and short-changing girls with cheap equipment, then the school is complying with Title IX.

As far as participation in sports among boys and girls, the numbers also do not need to be “equal.” Schools have to pass one prong of a three prong test for participation opportunities. The first prong is Substantial Proportionality which basically says that the ratio of female athletic participation must be “substantially proportional” to the ratio of female enrollment in the school. Prong two is History and Continuing Practice which basically says that a school must show that it is expanding its female sports offerings. Prong three is Full and Effective Accommodation which says that a school must show that the interests and abilities of the female students have been “fully” and “effectively” accommodated. With the addition of girls’ tennis in the fall of this year, the Mifflin County School District has, at the very least, met the second prong of the participation piece. It is too early in the process of reporting for the Disclosure of Interscholastic Athletic Opportunities Act to determine if prongs one and three have been met as well, but we will continue to monitor this.

So, not everything must be “equal” in terms of Title IX. However, in terms of athletic benefits and opportunities, things are to be equivalent and we are working toward this. In his article, Mr. Fishbein did correctly state that there is a need to improve the facilities for our softball team. If he would have taken the time to contact the head softball coach or the athletic department before writing his commentary, we would have given him information on the progress being made toward that end. The coaches and the athletic department have been in contact regarding field improvements since the beginning of the first of year of Mifflin County High School softball. The first hurdle to overcome in the process was to start to assess the future of Highland Park Elementary and the fields associated with the former school. After we determined during the last few months that the softball field would remain in its current location for the foreseeable future, we then put forth plans to add dugouts and a fence. In fact, if Mr. Fishbein would have just walked across the street from his office to the field before he completed his commentary, he would have noticed the lines painted in the grass for the outline of dugouts and positioning of conduit for additional electrical service to the field.

In addition, Mr. Fishbein wrote that the “Mifflin County School District should be thankful that the first of the annual reports it must submit doesn’t have to declare the donated baseball scoreboard.” We are just merely thankful to the Yeagertown Fire Company for donating the beautiful scoreboard to our baseball team. The purpose of Title IX and the reporting process that schools must now complete is not to diminish opportunities for boys. As such, we did not even consider the prospect of refusing the donation because it may cause a discrepancy. Instead, we welcomed the donation knowing that there may be another business or company in Mifflin County willing to help purchase a scoreboard for the softball team as soon as we are able to complete the fencing and dugout projects. We will have a new permanent scoreboard for the softball team in the near future because they deserve that benefit as well.

In closing, I’d just like to say that we are extremely proud of all of our student-athletes here at Mifflin County High School and we are especially proud of our girls’ softball team and their accomplishments this season in winning a District VI championship. We are working on improving their facilities and we are doing everything we can to give all of our teams the best opportunity to succeed. We believe that all of our student-athletes are important and deserving of the best that we can provide while being fiscally responsible in the process. Reporting information in regard to Title IX is going to be a tedious process, but it will allow us to take a look at our entire athletic department and find areas that we need to improve.

While speaking of improvements, I would love to see The Sentinel improve its coverage of local high school sports by providing more preview articles, more positive pieces on local athletes on and off the field, high school league standings, actual box scores from sports such as baseball and softball. We need to highlight the accomplishments of both male and female student-athletes and as our local newspaper; The Sentinel has an opportunity to do this effectively.

Matt Shoemaker

Athletic Director

Mifflin County High School