Lake Oswego Softball sues district under Title IX

These photos provided to KATU News shows the boys' baseball facility at Lake Oswego High School on the left and the girls' softball diamond at Lake Oswego Junior High School on the right.

An entire high school softball team is taking a stand against what they claim is gender discrimination to get improved playing facilities and equal treatment compared to what boys get.

All girls on the Lake Oswego softball roster now find their names in a Title IX lawsuit they filed Monday against the Lake Oswego School District.

Some parents of some players tell KATU News they feel the lawsuit is the team's only option. It accuses the school district of not making good on a promise to give the softball team upgrades that fall under Title IX compliance.

The team plays games and practices across the street from Lake Oswego High School at Lake Oswego Junior High School.

Concerns over gender discrimination involving the softball program formally go back to 2014, according to Kelly Deos, whose daughter Kelsey is on the team. Deos also said the inequities have existed long before then.

"It's disappointing that we're here. We had hoped that the school district would take care of this stuff themselves. No one wanted to get to this point where we had to file a lawsuit," Deos said.

Andrew Glascock, the attorney representing the team and their parents, said he filed a notice of intent to sue on March 11 with the school district. He said the school district never responded.

"Every girl, all 10 of them, said they wanted to have their name on this lawsuit. They believe in it. They're proud of it," Deos said.

Senior Lauren Working says the boys' baseball field doesn't just look better than theirs, it works a lot better also. The artificial turf on the boys' field means they can play in almost any weather.

"The boys play on a turf field, we have to play on dirt; therefore, they get to play year-round. We have to cancel time and time again," Working said.

Working also cites safety as a concern. While the boys have a hitting barn to practice their batting, the girls have to use an old net in a gym when it's raining out. She says that can be dangerous.

"It's frustrating to have to hit in the gym behind a set of bleachers where we are getting hurt -- we are getting balls in the face," Working said. "I cannot even begin to tell you how many times we've had to deal with some injuries behind there."

The federal Title IX law states that schools must provide boys and girls with "equal treatment and benefits." The suit claims a list of inequities between the boys' baseball program and the girls' softball program. Those include everything from funding to equipment to hitting facilities.

"We want what the boys have. We want field turf. We want a hitting facility. We want good practice equipment. We want safety equipment," Deos said.

Photos provided to KATU News in the lawsuit document show the boys' facilities have a turf field, stadium seating, a concession stand, a hitting barn, and a full locker room. Photos of the softball accommodations show a dirt field, metal bleachers, no concession stand, a net hanging inside the junior high gym that's used for hitting practice, and a shared room for the girls to dress in.

The suit calls the field where the softball team plays a "below average junior high field" and it's not even on their own campus. The suit claims the school district has failed to keep up the field at the junior high school, and that team members, their parents, and coaches regularly do routine maintenance work to keep it looking as good as possible.

"It's not a safe environment for the coaches, for the girls. It's not a productive environment if you're trying to run a practice," Deos said.

The softball team claims in the suit that the school district promised them a new hitting facility in 2014 when the school district got a big private donation, and then claims the school district went back on that promise in February 2016.

The suit alleges the Lake Oswego High School principal said in a meeting the facility now wouldn't get built until the team "wins a state championship."

"I don't know what kind of message the school district is sending that the boys deserve to have the best of everything and that the girls deserve to have nothing," Deos said.

The team doesn't want money according to the lawsuit. It wants a judge to force the school district to upgrade the softball facilities and give them funding they feel they're entitled to under the Title IX law.

Lake Oswego School District spokeswoman Nancy Duin sent KATU News this statement about the Title IX lawsuit late Tuesday afternoon:

A Title IX lawsuit has been filed against the district alleging gender discrimination by denying equal athletic treatment and benefits for the Lake Oswego High School girls softball program. The district has a long history of supporting athletic opportunities for its female athletes and has been working on plans to improve practice and playing conditions for the Lake Oswego High School softball team. Some improvements have already been made, such as providing suitable inclement weather practice opportunities for girls softball and an upgrade to the indoor softball batting cage. Additional planning, coordination and equipment are required to further improve conditions and the district expects those will be in place within the next several weeks.

"At the end of the day it's about their equal rights; it's about their self-esteem," Deos said.

KATU's Stephen Mayer contributed to this story.

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