The Hartselle Board of Education expects its students to do their homework, but it apparently failed to do its own when designing the athletic complex for the new high school.
Since 1972, federal law has required schools to maintain rough equality in programs for male and female athletes.
The law — Title IX — makes sense, especially on the high school level.
Hartselle High School — scheduled for completion early next year — is being financed by women and men, and by just as many parents with daughters as parents with sons.
A major justification for spending taxpayer money on high school athletics is the recognition that sports promote discipline, teamwork and healthy lifestyles, which are just as important in the development of girls as boys.
Also because of Title IX, girls who excel in athletics have the same opportunities for college scholarships as their male counterparts.
Against this backdrop, the Hartselle school board approved a $2 million athletic complex that has no locker room space for girls' sports. The plan would renovate the old baseball complex for girls' softball but build a 50,000-square-foot athletic facility for baseball and football.
Officials are justifying the plans by claiming girls in the new high school will have better sports facilities than they had in the old one. Experts in Title IX law, however, said that is not the standard.
"Women shouldn't be tricked into thinking that improvements are better than nothing," said Peter S. Finley, associate professor of sports management at Nova Southeastern University. "It's the school leaders' responsibility to make sure equitable treatment takes place."
Not only is the school board's plan for the athletic complex unfair to girls, it is likely to expose the school system to expensive lawsuits.
Before construction on the athletic complex begins, the school board needs to do the homework it should have done early in the process. It needs to hire a Title IX lawyer to work with the architects. It needs to redesign the athletic complex to comply with federal law and to be fair to all students.
All Hartselle residents deserve the benefits that will come from a state-of-the-art athletic complex. Reserving the best facilities for boys is unfair, and probably illegal.
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