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Castle Rock School Board clears path for girls soccer in stadium

Castle Rock School Board clears path for girls soccer in stadium

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Castle Rock High School's girls soccer team will play at least some games in the sports stadium next fall, giving parents and team members a victory in their Title IX discrimination complaint.

"We're going to play in the stadium, and that was our goal," said parent Larry Hensley, who filed the complaint with the district. "It's what should have happened to begin with."

A Feb. 29 letter from the school board states that future seasons' soccer games "may be played in the stadium."

School Board President Glen Paget said there's no guarantee all the girls' games will be in the stadium. The number of games will depend on scheduling and other athletic events, Paget said Tuesday.

Hensley said he was "cautiously optimistic" that staff would follow the board's direction, adding he hoped most if not all games could be played in the stadium.

The letter states no employee will be disciplined for "misunderstandings of a lack of necessary focus regarding Title IX related matters," but training on Title IX compliance will be increased.

Title IX is a federal law that requires gender equity in school sports programs.

The district also will establish a committee to advise officials on Title IX and other sports matters, according to the letter.

Historically, the girls soccer team has played on an unlighted field while the football team used the lighted stadium. Some girls games were played in the stadium each year, particularly toward the end of the fall season when darkness falls earlier.

Last fall, though, Athletic Director Neil Williamson told the team they'd get only one stadium game, even though their games didn't conflict with football practices or games. After Williamson's decision, a varsity game was called due to darkness, and several JV games were shortened significantly.

Several parents and players said not allowing soccer games in the stadium was a Title IX violation. The soccer parents said they paid the same school taxes and participation fees as the football parents and their children deserved the same access to district facilities.

A complaint was filed and eventually the matter came before the school board for a hearing last month. The letter granting use of the stadium is the board's ruling from the hearing.

The ruling also appears to allow the boys soccer team to use the stadium in the spring if they choose. The letter always refers to soccer, not just girls soccer. When asked Tuesday if it applied to both girls and boys soccer teams, Paget said "it applies to soccer."

Hensley said Tuesday that the team and parents are "excited" and look forward to playing in the stadium. He has four daughters, including two currently in the district's soccer program.

In addition to lighting, the stadium also has covered seating, a sound system and is easily accessible to people in wheelchairs, which was not case on the muddy soccer field near the football stadium. Hensley.

"I'm happy," Hensley said. "We get to play in the stadium. Older fans won't have to sit out in the rain and people with disabilities won't have to fight the mud on the field."

Parents also raised concerns about funding for the soccer program and requirements that parents transport girls to their away games while other teams used district buses. Hensley said he's "taking the school board at its word" that those issues will be addressed.

"They said they're going to adhere to Title IX rules and regulations and that they'll make sure the girls get fair and equal treatment," Hensley said. "Granting them access to the sports complex is a good first step."

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