Hannibal Parent Says Girls, Boys Ballfields Are Not Equal

A Hannibal school district parent says the boys baseball and girls softball fields are so different that they may raise questions about whether the district is upholding its federal mandate to provide equal athletic services.

Janice Scott told the Board of Education recently that while the boys baseball field has covered dugouts and lined boxes for base coaches, among other things, the girls field does not. As a result, when the girls played games in the rain, their equipment and backpacks full of school work got soaked.

“This fails to meet any form of equity,” Scott said.

Under the federal Title IX rules, schools that receive federal funds must provide equal athletic opportunities for students, regardless of sex.

For schools, that has meant making sure that there are an equal number of athletic teams for boys and girls, and that each team receives an equivalent amount of support. Schools cutting their athletic programs during the current recession have had to make those cuts with an eye on keeping the balance between boys and girls teams.

Hannibal is in the midst of its second major renovation project in the last few years, but Scott noted that upgrading the girls softball field was not on the list of work to be done.

“The district had the obligation to ask the question, ‘What about the girls?’ Apparently, the question was never asked,” she said.

Board President Fred Patane, in a later update on the state of the current construction project, asked the construction manager what kind of work was slated for the girls softball field. The manager replied that only some minor drainage pipe installation was scheduled.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard any discussion about that field,” Patane said.

The board did not reply directly to Scott. The custom during the public comment session is for the board to listen to the speaker without responding, and to issue a written reply to the speaker soon afterwards.