The coaches of the Tennyson High School (Hayward, Calif.) softball team have had enough. Now they’re doing something about their problem.
As reported by San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX, the coaches of the softball team at the school which sits between Oakland and San Jose expressed persistent concerns about the poor condition of the softball field. Those concerns were put in sharp relief when the softball field was compared to the school’s better-maintained baseball field. When added to persistent issues related to the girls locker room and bathroom availability, the need for a gender equity lawsuit became too much to overlook.
That’s why on Tuesday they re-filed a complaint against the Hayward Unified School District with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The new complaint follows on from an original complaint filed in February and calls out the school district for not making amends to the situation after the initial legal complaint.
The deplorable state of the girls bathroom at the field, which doubles as the girls locker room when the former is (allegedly almost always) closed, lays bare the impetus for the coaches to get the situation fixed immediately.
“When you walk into the girls’ bathroom, if it’s open, there’s a tank with water, and it constantly leaks, so the floors are completely wet,” 16-year-old Kayla Birdsell told KPIX. and we’re forced to change in there and it’s just really disgusting.”
While the district released a statement expressing its concern that some of its students felt the softball field was unsafe — and writing off culpability for the field’s condition by noting it was not included in prior bonds that funded other facility renovations — Tennyson softball coach Gabriel Hernandez made clear that the district’s sentiment won’t cut it when it comes to the safety and well-being of young female student athletes.
“Someone’s gotta give these girls a voice, and someone’s eventually gotta listen to them, and so if that’s me and coach and doing what we gotta do, if it costs us our jobs, then whatever. Bottom line, someone’s going to listen to these girls at some point,” said Hernandez.
UPDATE: The Hayward Unified School District provided a statement about the Title IX complaint to USA TODAY. You can read it in full below:
“The Hayward Unified School District proudly supports all student athletes and recognizes the important role our athletic programs play in enriching the academic experience of our students. While no evidence of inequitable treatment of sports teams was presented to the district, we previously voluntarily agreed to complete repairs and improvements to our facilities at Tennyson High School. This non-binding agreement facilitated by the Office of Civil Rights was entered into for the purpose of resolving a pending complaint and to better serve our students. An unrelated and customary Federal Program Monitoring audit conducted recently by the California Department of Education found the district and its facilities in compliance with Title IX.“We are saddened that some students feel they are being treated unfairly and we will continue to work with students, families, and staff to make sure their concerns are heard and to encourage all of our students to thrive in the extracurricular activities of their choice. The 2014 Measure L bond included plans to renovate some athletic fields and facilities at all three of our high schools. We made it a priority to renovate spaces used by both female and male athletes. The renovations included the football/soccer field, the snack bar, locker rooms, and the track. These spaces are used by sports teams, the cheer squad, and the student band. Neither the softball field nor the baseball field at Tennyson (or at the other high schools) were included as part of the project list on either bond measure, but we continue to make improvements and upgrades to all of our facilities. Our commitment is to student safety at all of our school sites regardless of ethnicity or gender. To that end, the school board approved an allocation from Measure H, the bond measure passed in 2018, to improve security infrastructure and fencing at all school sites.“In regards to the rental of our school facilities, the district is in compliance with the Civic Center Act regarding access and applicable charges to ensure the safe use and preservation of public facilities used by the public. Renovations and improvements of our high school baseball fields have been the result of donations. The only exception is the Tennyson baseball outfield. It was damaged by the contractor working on the athletic fields and they repaired the damage as a result.”