Lake O softball players sue district for discrimination

A spokesperson for the district directed all questions to the district's legal counsel

Lake Oswego softball players sued the school district for discrimination. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Lake Oswego School District is being accused of discriminating against its female student athletes in violation of Title IX.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Monday, claims the school district denies female students athletes equal participation opportunities.

The foremost plaintiff is an 18-year-old student who plays for Lake Oswego’s softball team. She’s played softball within the district for about 10 years, the lawsuit states.

“[The school district] has discriminated against (the plaintiff) on the basis of her sex by denying her equal athletic treatment and benefits,” according to the lawsuit.

Nine other high school softball players joined the lawsuit. All of the girls are 14-16.

“By its conduct, [the district] violated Title IX by discriminating against female student athletes…by failing to provide treatment and benefits which are comparable to the treatment and benefits provided to male student athletes,” the lawsuit states.

Both parents and students have complained about Title IX violations and/or “unfair treatment” of female student athletes “for years”, according to the lawsuit.

“We’re here to play our game,” shortstop Lauren Working told KOIN 6 News. “We love this game, we wouldn’t be fighting for what we love if we didn’t truly appreciate it.”

In Feb. 2016, in response to the complaints, “representatives from Lake Oswego High School indicated that some of these inequities would be addressed once the Lake Oswego High School softball team ‘wins a state championship,’” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit describes the goal as “difficult” to achieve, in light of the “current inequitable” treatment and benefits given to the Lake Oswego girls.

They are allegedly discriminated against in terms of their practice and competitive facilities, locker rooms, training facilities, equipment, supplies, publicity and funding.

Male student athletes who play on the baseball team are reportedly given access to an “on-campus, enclosed hitting facility with state of the art pitching machines.”

Girls don’t have anything similar and they are not allowed to use the hitting facility that the baseball team uses, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs also take issue with the playing fields. The lawsuit claims the boys’ baseball team plays on campus with a field that is made of artificial turf.

“Artificial turf playing allows the baseball program to practice year-round, even in poor weather. There are no drainage issues on the baseball field,” the lawsuit states.

In contrast, the girls’ softball team must play on-site, at the junior high.

The dirt field is reportedly subject to “significant” drainage problems that have required them to cancel practices and games, according to the lawsuit.

The girls’ softball field doesn’t even have a U.S. flag for the pre-game national anthem, the lawsuit alleges. Meanwhile, the boys’ baseball team is “noticeably superior” with more technology and accommodations for players and fans.

The boys’ baseball team has its own locker room which is only for them. The softball team is required to share a “team room” with other female athletes on campus.

The Lake Oswego School District released the following statement:

“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.”

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