Administration assesses discrimination allegation, seeks opportunity for greater equity

Jacob Posner, Editor-in-Chief

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After the administration declined a proposal from the varsity volleyball team to attend a Florida tournament in September 2019, Title IX Coordinator Betsy Noel is assessing how trips for sports teams are approved and general issues of equity around athletics.

The administration rejected the proposal because of scheduling conflicts. The team of girls responded with a letter disputing the administration’s reasoning.

Along with questioning the claim that volleyball coach Lisa Miller couldn’t miss a couple days of the back-to-school planning week, the letter raised concerns about Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programming.

“Additionally, we believe that this cancellation conflicts with Title IX, as there are increasingly more opportunities for boys’ athletic teams to experience trips, while girls’ teams must fight harder for similar opportunities,” the team wrote.

Volleyball team member Sydney Rogers, a junior, said the players were all disappointed when they heard the news.

“We had been talking to Ms. Miller a lot about it before we had sent it in, so we were already really excited about it before it had been sent in,” Sydney said.

In a message sent to team members and their families through Schoology, Athletics Director David Ribbens wrote, “the trip would have conflicted with planning week for teachers and the 9th grade retreat, two critical events during which we take great care to avoid scheduling conflicts.”

Ms. Noel added in an interview with the Midway that it “would be irresponsible of the school” to force students or teachers to choose between critical bonding activities and athletics.

Despite saying the administration’s decision was reasonable, Ms. Noel said she is working with Mr. Ribbens and others at the school to review decisions about athletics with respect to team trips. She said she has identified so far that the administration’s policies with regard to scheduling conflicts could be more transparent. If this had been the case, the volleyball team might not have been as disappointed when their proposal was denied.

Ms. Noel pointed out that that ensuring compliance with Title IX in the athletics department is a part of Mr. Ribbens’ day-to-day work. She also said she and Mr. Ribbens have assessed the equity of the department for the over the past two years, addressing concerns when they were raised. One included gender bias in the spirit council, which the school has identified as an area of improvement.

The review is “a combination of following up on people who have raised concerns in the past, as well as collaborating with Mr. Ribbens to look through all the record keeping,” Ms. Noel said, adding that she has spoken with Brian Lipinski, Laboratory Schools director of finance, to learn more about how budgets are  managed.

Ana Campos, dean of students, and Mr. Ribbens work together over the summer, so assemblies and grade activities don’t conflict with sports teams’ events, Ms. Noel said.

She added that the events Mr. Ribbens and Ms. Campos need to take into account include religious holidays, AP exams, pacing of schoolwork, finals and midterms.

She said it’s a “wildly underappreciated body of work.”

Editors Note: This story was updated on May 17 to reflect updated information from Title IX Coordinator Betsy Noel.