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Department of Education to investigate Saugus softball

Posted: March 19, 2008 12:38 a.m.
Updated: May 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Education has decided to investigate an allegation that the Hart district threatened to disband the Saugus High School Softball Booster Club in retaliation for a complaint previously filed with that office.

Softball Coach Julie Watson had informed booster club executive board members in early February of her intention to disband the club, but shortly after that meeting had a change of heart and kept the club intact. At the time, Watson said, the idea to disband the club had nothing to do with the complaint that had been filed in December, but rather was due to the negative tone the club had assumed.

The December complaint alleged that the William S. Hart Union High School District discriminates against students with disabilities and has failed to provide equal benefits, opportunities and services to male and female athletes. In addition to Saugus High, the complaint also cited Hart and Canyon high schools.

The second complaint alleges that the district threatened to disband the softball booster club and has since altered the methods of administrating the booster club in retaliation for a previously filed complaint.

While the booster club remains at Saugus, the club's executive committee has been disbanded and the school now handles all of the money raised by the club, according to Brenda Vidigan, who was vice president of fundraising before her office was terminated.

Vidigan said she didn't know if the district was trying to retaliate because of the complaint, but she feels the disbanding of the executive committee was more of a control issue.

"They wanted control of the funds and stuff," Vidigan said. "Now there is no oversight committee. Most standard booster clubs have officers who oversee what's going on, but now the school is doing everything."
According to Principal Bill Bolde, Julie Watson, the softball head coach, is now in charge of the money raised by the booster club.

"The booster clubs are there to support the programs, but they're not there to make all the decisions - that's what the coach is for," Bolde said. "(Julie) is the person who is ultimately in charge of that program."
In response to the latest Office of Civil Rights complaint, Bolde said there was no connection between the idea to disband the booster club and the first complaint.

"No, there was never any way we would insinuate that we were going to disband the booster club to show those parents," Bolde said. "I really like for parents to be involved."


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