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Canyon High field draws complaint

Civil rights violation claim brought against school for difference in baseball, softball conditions

Posted: August 5, 2014 10:38 p.m.
Updated: August 5, 2014 10:38 p.m.

(Left) A sprinkler is viewed Tuesday afternoon in the outfield of the Canyon High baseball field, which is kept behind lock and key and not open to the public. The grass appears to be evenly watered throughout the field. (Right) What appear to be gopher holes can be seen in the grass just outside the infield dirt of the Canyon softball field....

 

Editor's note: The following version corrects the location of the softball field.

Federal Education Department officials are investigating a civil rights complaint alleging gender-based discrimination at Canyon High School athletic facilities, a source familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The allegations detailed in the complaint, which was obtained by The Signal, fall under Title IX legislation, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Allegations focus on the differences between the facilities used by the softball team and baseball team at Canyon High School, according to the complaint.

“Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that (Office for Civil Rights) has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint,” according to official Office for Civil Rights documents.

The complaint states that the allegations were brought to the attention of the William S. Hart Union High School District on June 21, but no response was received.

The complaint was filed July 15.

Hart district officials have not been notified of the Office for Civil Rights complaint, said Hart district Title IX Coordinator Greg Lee, nor was Lee aware of any prior complaints that had come to the district about the current state of Canyon’s softball facilities, he said.

“I have not had any complaints from anyone affiliated with Canyon softball about the facilities there, and I’m 99.9 percent sure that the people in operations or facilities have not received any complaints,” Lee said Tuesday.

“We are responsive to these kinds of complaints, and we try to be responsive when someone has concerns because we have a lot of facilities, and there may have been something we did not notice. All we ask is give us an opportunity to address it.”

Previous complaint

The Signal received a copy of a confirmation letter sent by Office for Civil Rights employee Dorothy W. Brady, which states, ‘This is to acknowledge that the U.S. Department of Education, San Francisco Office for Civil Rights (OCR), received your complaint on July 15, 2014. We are evaluating your complaint to determine whether OCR will accept your allegation(s) for investigation.”

According to the source close to the investigation, the complainant — who was not identified because the Office for Civil Rights does not reveal the identity of complainants of class complaints — was contacted by Robert Danese, a department civil rights investigator, and informed that an investigation would proceed regarding inequality between the softball and baseball facilities at Canyon.

The district should be informed of the investigation in the coming days, according to the source.

When reached by phone, Danese said department policy prevented him for commenting on any case.

According to Lee, Canyon’s softball fields were upgraded with a scoreboard and improved dugouts in 2008 after another complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights by a then-Saugus parent.

The complaint filed in December 2007 alleged the William S. Hart Union High School District discriminated against students with disabilities and had failed to provide equal benefits, opportunities and services to male and female athletes.

It was filed by a parent of a then-Saugus softball player and cited Saugus High School, but it also cited Hart and Canyon high schools.

Additional Canyon High softball field improvements were made this summer, including new fencing along the left field foul line and replaced fencing on the bottom half of the infield fence, head coach Tim Melton said.

The school also recently saw an upgrade to the softball backstop, according to Canyon Assistant Principal Jason d’Autremont and Melton.

“I feel very strongly the softball facilities around our league are comparable and at any of our campuses are comparable to the baseball facilities,” Lee said.

“Does that mean they’re exactly the same? Well, they’re not the same sport, so due to the size of the venue you’re going to have distinctions.”

Side by side

The baseball field at Canyon is located on campus and includes a permanent fence and irrigation system. An irrigation system control unit is visible near the baseball field’s home dugout, and sprinklers are visible in the field.
The complaint cites the softball irrigation system.

“The head (softball) coach at Canyon drags a water hose around the field for an hour and a half every day, while every other softball facility in the district, including the Canyon boys baseball field, has their field watered by an irrigation system on a timer,” it says.

Melton confirmed that the softball field has sprinklers only in the outfield and that the team must water the infield by hose.

The baseball field is located on the Canyon High campus, and  on Tuesday it was locked at all entrances. The softball field is also on the campus, but on Tuesday a gate was standing open between it and North Oaks Park. Members of the public were using the field, which on Tuesday was striped for football use and had two soccer nets on it. 

The public can use the field only by permit from the district, spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said Wednesday.

"The field is typically locked, but multiple school groups can gain access from the park with the use of a gate key, and the gate has sometimes been left open," she said in a statement Wednesday.  "We have now locked the gate with a unique lock so access is only through the campus."

The baseball field includes two batting cages and at least two visible storage units. The softball field has one batting cage. 

It also has an equipment shed, but according to the complaint, “The softball equipment shed is uninhabitable according to the district and full of rats.”

“The rats are destroying our equipment bags and the girls’ bat bags that were purchased with the money we raised through the booster club,” the complaint says. “The red tape that is involved in the district and school making decisions is painfully slow, unless it has to do with Canyon football or baseball.”

Regarding field conditions, holes were visible Tuesday in the grass and dirt just behind the infield of the softball facility, and the infield appears to be hilly rather than smoothly graded.

According to Lee, the district has plans to grade the field to ensure it is level. But when contacted for comment, Melton said the current state of the field is on par with its state during the softball season.

Some of these issues have been brought to the district in the past, according to a parent who wished to remain anonymous for fear that her daughter, who played in the Canyon softball program last year, would be punished.That parent claims she notified the school about field problems, and then the district when nothing was fixed.

That parent also claims she told at least one district official that if an injury occurred on the field, someone would sue. Shortly afterward the outfield was improved, the parent said, but the infield remained unsatisfactory, in their opinion.

What’s next

Both the source familiar with the situation and the complainant said the department has determined to conduct an investigation and will notify the Hart district of that investigation.

The district has the opportunity to resolve the complaint prior to the conclusion of the investigation.

Should the two parties agree to resolve the complaint, the Office for Civil Rights acts as a facilitator, aiding in negotiations without proposing a solution.

If no agreement is negotiated, the office will determine in the case of each allegation whether “there is insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that the recipient failed to comply with the law, or a preponderance of the evidence supports a conclusion that the recipient failed to comply with the law,” according to the office’s website.

In the event of extreme and persistent failure to comply with the office’s directions to correct gender inequity, the Office for Civil Rights could “either initiate administrative enforcement proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue federal financial assistance to the recipient, or will refer the case to the Department of Justice. OCR may also move immediately to defer any new or additional federal financial assistance to the institution,” its website states.

jstein@signalscv.com
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Comments

17trillion: Posted: August 6, 2014 11:11 a.m.

Waaaa...my field isn't as nice as yours...waaaa! Who can I sue? How can I make the lives of others just a little bit worse because my grass isn't equal?


FunTimeSportSharks: Posted: August 6, 2014 11:14 a.m.

They should be ashamed to allow that softball field to be in that poor condition! What also should be looked at is the field conditions when compared to other high schools too? Compare both the baseball & softball field conditions at GVHS to the fields at Valencia or West Ranch? Why are those fields in way better condition and both fields at GVHS are barely adequate? Or the baseball field at La Mesa JHS? Compare that baseball field to the one at Sierra Vista JHS (which is in way better condition). ALL the schools should have equal facility conditions for all the fields regardless of gender or sport (or J.H.S. vs H.S.)


Nitsho: Posted: August 6, 2014 11:25 a.m.

Here is what's missing from the story.

The Baseball team raised money, like all the other schools, to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the fields. I know from first hand experience that GV and Canyon parents fund the upkeep of the fields, batting cages and storage lockers.

If the softball team wants a nice field, they can raise money just like everyone else.

The JHS don't have baseball boosters to fund the upkeep. That's all on the district. HS's have boosters to raise money to support the field.




newsreader1965: Posted: August 6, 2014 11:27 a.m.

What is not considered is how much time some of the coaches at some of the schools spend to keep their fields up to a standard that they want. I see the baseball coach at Hart out keeping the field up with his players and parents so that they field is as nice as they want. All some people see is the end result and not who does all the work to get it in that condition.


michaelmyers1: Posted: August 6, 2014 11:35 a.m.

Well said NITSHO.....


Bobs: Posted: August 6, 2014 2:21 p.m.

So is the suit claiming that because Softball is played by women they are being discriminated against? Or am I missing something.

But to back up Nisho's statement, my son currently plays in 2 sports at his (undisclosed) Santa Clarita High School. The amount of "donations", fundraising and volunteer work we do for the teams is stunningly huge. But I do it so my son has the opportunity. Is the same true for that softball program? I don't know but sounds like no.


SCV4ALL: Posted: August 6, 2014 3:30 p.m.

Well lets get into the bathrooms, should the boys sue because their restroom isn't kept as nice as the girls restroom?
GIVE ME A BREAK - FUND RAISE!


frankferryhater: Posted: August 6, 2014 4:35 p.m.

So the ladies want the same thing but don't want to work for it. They are definitely ready for marriage.

How about you have Bikini Car Washes and Kissing booths and you'll have more then enough money to fix your field.

FYI - The only people that attend girl's sports are the families anyways


Bones: Posted: August 6, 2014 6:50 p.m.

As a parent of a Canyon Baseball player, and having friends with daughters on the Softball team, I can tell you that both programs fundraise. While the sports are similar, they are not the same, but I agree that the sports should be supported by the district in a similar fashion. However, how the booster club and coaches decide to spend their time and the money they've raised, should have nothing to do with the other program. I know how hard many of the baseball parents work to support the program, and I'm sure that there are many softball parents who work just as hard. If parents of the Softball program are unhappy with their situation, or how their booster club allocates their funds, perhaps they should step up and become more active with their board so they can correct that which they find inadequate, perhaps this would do more good than filing legal complaints, sitting back, and letting other people work to fix their problems. --edited.


LosRubios: Posted: August 6, 2014 7:45 p.m.

Seems like the grass is always greener on the other side


SReilly12: Posted: August 6, 2014 8:59 p.m.

@frankferryhater - may you be blessed with many daughters..........


rockermom: Posted: August 7, 2014 12:41 a.m.

What is also missing from this story is how the softball field is not permitted to be locked up like baseball is. Yes the booster club raises money for the field, a field that is also shared with football and soccer. The girls should have the same privilege and upkeep as the boys do. I am a Canyon Softball parent and work very hard to raise money for our program. Yes credit to baseball for raising money for their field, but no one is forcing you to share your field with other sports. We are only allowed so much money a year to spend for the field, otherwise our girls would not have a program to participate on said field. The girls deserve just as much as the boys do.


BlueGoldgirl: Posted: August 7, 2014 8:17 a.m.

@FrankFerryHater - you are completely incorrect regarding who attends girls sports events. It's not just families that I saw at my daughter's games. In fact, extra bleachers had to be brought in for the overflow crowds that attended during their CIF run to the championship game. Several hotly contested league games saw large crowds of students, friends, and families.

Yes - I too hope you have many daughters, and that they all are multi-sport athletes.


Nitsho: Posted: August 7, 2014 10:53 a.m.

Rockermom

You're confusing.....

"Yes the booster club raises money for the field"
"The girls should have the same privilege and upkeep as the boys do"
" I am a Canyon Softball parent and work very hard to raise money for our program"
"Yes credit to baseball for raising money for their field"
"We are only allowed so much money a year to spend for the field"

So you raise money..then don't have money, then you raise money, then you don't seem to raise money, then you have money but then don't allocate enough...

Also this is a pretty inflammatory statement...
"otherwise our girls would not have a program to participate"

Are you saying that if you didn't raise enough money, you would not be able to play? That's a bold face lie.

Maybe raise more money, get more parent involvement, and put more effort into the field?

Stop being a lazy complainer. You're raising a victim.


timothymyers02: Posted: August 7, 2014 12:50 p.m.

frankferryhater emerges from his cave to give his views on gender issues. Watch out sir. The Soylent Green collection folks have got to be hot on your trail.


timothymyers02: Posted: August 7, 2014 12:52 p.m.

BlueGoldgirl:

The terms of frankferryhater's parole don't allow him to attend women's sporting events.


BlueGoldgirl: Posted: August 7, 2014 4:54 p.m.

@ timothymyers02 - Thank You for the best laugh I have had all week! Figured that poster was twisted.


peoplesvoice: Posted: August 7, 2014 6:56 p.m.

When I played JV Football at CHS the baseball outfield was our main practice field. So I am not 100% if that is still the case bc that was about 7 years ago, but just wanted to make that point.


rockermom: Posted: August 7, 2014 10:14 p.m.

Nitsho you are certainly invited to come to a booster meeting and express your hateful comments toward our program in person. You can see first hand what our program is about. There is no hiding anything. Any parent in this valley know that you have to pay SOMETHING for your child to pay a high school sport. There is NO FINANCIAL SUPPORT from the school or district. As for me being a liar, lazy complainer and raising a victim you are wrong, absolutely wrong. I feel sorry for you with your ignorant commentary and hate toward a high school program. Grow up.


Nitsho: Posted: August 7, 2014 10:48 p.m.

Hateful? I guess calling out your confusing statements is hateful? Get over yourself. I'm well aware of the pay to play system in sports and paid a lot of money for baseball so cry me a river. I may attended a booster meeting to find out exactly what the crap you were trying to say.

Maybe read what I said, slowly, and point out what was hateful. You're confusing , bitter and misguided.

And yes, you're raising a victim.


Whoabro: Posted: August 8, 2014 4:37 a.m.

I play baseball at canyon, and each player pays 1,000$ to play. How much do the softball players pay? Pretty sure nobody knows all the facts from both sides. All i know is, the softball field is in bad condition, probably because football practices there--- and they by the way get funded by the school. Nobody else practices on the baseball field because there isnt enough room! And further, the softball field is part of North Oaks Park. However, if the baseball field was in bad condition and softball wasnt, this most likely would not be an issue. One should also consider the state of both fields when they were originally built, especially when trying to compare the effectiveness of irrigation. Once again, nobody knows all the facts but im trying to help provide a fair perspective. --edited.


SCV4Life: Posted: August 8, 2014 4:49 p.m.

The issue here in my opinion as a parent of a CHS Softball player is Softball does not have their own field. The fields were leveled last year but they are already tore up. I think there are Softball parent willing to put in the work to fix the fields but why would we when other sports are just going to tear it up. Nobody's trying to take anything away from baseball. So many people are stuck on the little things. I have never seen a football sled pushed across the baseball field tearing up the grass. I don't think the baseball team has to conform practice to accommodate the football team practicing in their outfield? Not putting the blame on football. The administration should do something to allow the girls their own space. All the other schools in the area have that! You baseball people would feel the same if it were you. The fact that you put in so much time maintaining your fields should tell you that.


Nitsho: Posted: August 8, 2014 5:16 p.m.

But is all this REALLY a civil rights issue? Sounds more like simple school / city management issue.


SCV4Life: Posted: August 8, 2014 8:18 p.m.

I see your point Nitsho. Most of the time I may agree with you. Can you explain why all the sports teams who have their own area are boys teams? The girls have the same dreams as the boys. They work just as hard. Why are they getting left overs? This is an issue that has been at Canyon as long as I can remember. Being a young man what did I care. What would the varsity football team say if our girls starting doing hitting drills in the middle of their new turf during their practice? How about if Girls soccer was practicing on the baseball outfield during baseball practice, in the middle of the baseball season just tearing up the grass with their cleats. We have had little kids walking through our outfield to get to their practice in the middle of league games. Stopping our game mid pitch a few times even. This is why title 9 was created. I don't agree with all the nit picking about irrigation and non sense. If the boosters provided it or the kids maintain it good for them. The softball boosters and kids need to step it up and put in some work..BUT they should be allowed to have a field to clean up without sharing it with people who could care less about its maintenance.


Nitsho: Posted: August 8, 2014 9:45 p.m.

I'm not sure if that's the case. At GV hart, Valencia, etc, the fields are fine for both. I think part of the issue is that the softball field is part of a park. I really don't know what the issue is there though. Administration maybe? But to go right to civil rights violation and discrimination is a bit much. I'm surprised racism wasn't involved. With no complaints filed,,,according to the article, leads one to believe there is a back story to the filing that isn't in this story. Sounds like a professional victim issue really. --edited.


SCV4Life: Posted: August 9, 2014 4:06 a.m.

I suggest maybe you go read Title IX for yourself. Its pretty plain. Canyon is not the first to see it used. Actually you state the problem better than me in your post "At GV hart, Valencia, etc, the fields are fine for both." I have been on all fields and I agree 100%. You make it seam like they are trying to bring Jesse Jackson down her with the "civil rights violation" stuff. The fact is Canyon is in violation of an agreement the state made with schools receiving funds. You may not agree with it but it is there non the less. They will have to fix this or face a chance at loosing any state funding. Like I said I hope they do not get too nit picky about it because other sports will suffer if they do.

And if you are looking for professional victims maybe check out the trolls in forums who think of how things effect them regardless of fairness or equality. :) Like it or not their are laws regarding equality.


Nitsho: Posted: August 9, 2014 8:22 a.m.

I'm ok with equality. That's not my point. Neither is the title 9 issue.

What but is to me, according tit the article, no one complained and they, whomever, complained, went right to a civil rights and discrimation issue.

Why didn't they talk to the school, then the district, then the board and city to get this addressed before using the nuclear option? Seems a bit much no? --edited.


SCVresident1990: Posted: August 9, 2014 1:16 p.m.

Less talk, more action. In other words, parents of those who have girls playing softball for Canyon need to get off their butts and do some manual labor, like the baseball teams do and the coaches. The baseball fields look the way they do due to a team effort, bottom line. There is no funding from the District that baseball receives, it is all supported by donations and endless hours put in by the kids/coaches/parents. "There is no crying in baseball," softball should recognize that quote.


SCV4Life: Posted: August 17, 2014 4:44 p.m.

SCVresident1990, I agree with you. We need to get parents out there to maintain the fields. That is not the issue here though. We do not have our own field to maintain. We share it with football, soccer, cheer, band, Hart pony league kids, and who ever else wants to use it. We can not put up fences because it interferes with them. We can not maintain what we are not allowed to have. Our field was maintained last year and now its in horrible shape from months of abuse from other sports.



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