Parents for a group of boys hockey players in Maine have filed suit against the Maine Principal's Association, citing gender discrimination in the state's rejection of the parents' request to allow their sons to play for a nearby high school hockey team.
As reported by the Associated Press and NBC affiliate WLBZ, among other sources, Deering (Maine) High was unable to field a boys hockey team for the 2011 season after only five players turned out for the squad. With those limitations, the parents for two of those players -- as well as a student from Casco Bay (Maine) High -- petitioned to have their sons play for nearby Portland (Maine) High, as the girls hockey players at Deering have traditionally done.
That request was denied by the Maine Principal's Association, which ruled that if Deering couldn't find enough players to compete on the ice, the players left behind wouldn't be allowed to play for another school.
"When you have two exactly situated groups, boys and girls, one gets the opportunity, one doesn't that's racial discrimination on the basis of sex," Paul Green, an attorney for the parents filing suit told WLBZ. "So under the law, at that point, it becomes the MPA's burden to justify their decision."
The MPA is attempting to do that by citing the ongoing disparity between access to hockey for girls and boys in the state. Essentially, the argument states that the practice of co-oping girls teams cobbled together of members from multiple schools is still a necessary way to ensure that girls hockey survives, while it isn't necessary for boys hockey.
Here's how MPA executive director Dick Durost explained that logic in a statement to the press.
"While great strides have been made in Maine's efforts to create overall equal athletic opportunities for boys and girls, a disparity still exists."
Only time will tell if the Cumberland County Superior Court sees the situation as the MPA does. With the suit filed during the first week of November, there has yet to be a firm timetable established for when it will be decided.
Until then, the parents and students who suddenly find themselves without hockey can only wonder what they could possibly do to get back on the ice in one of the coldest and most hockey-mad states in the country.