Michigan softball team claims Title IX discrimination over lack of field improvements

A Michigan girls softball team is claiming gender discrimination after their school's baseball stadium received new lights, bleachers and irrigation while the softball facilities remained unchanged, despite terms of a public bond which called for both facilities to be equally improved.

As first reported by the Oakland Press, and followed upon by a variety of other Michigan sources, the Avondale (Mich.) High softball team is citing gender discrimination and a possible violation of Title IX -- on the 40th anniversary of the ruling, at that -- because of a lack of improvements made to the school's softball field.

The issue has led to impassioned pleas from immediate improvements from current Avondale softball players, who hope to play on the new junior varsity baseball field -- which is in a new complex that was created with money from a $27,810,000 bond -- to bring the team's facilities closer to the originally promised result.

"We think it's discrimination because it's not comparable fields," Avondale senior softball co-captain Christine Wojtowicz. "The boys varsity team got a whole new field, and the softball team didn't.

"What kind of message is this sending Avondale students and parents? Women are less than men; we don't deserve new fields? When the other players from other schools are coming, this is representing Avondale. I think it's an embarrassment."

While officials have claimed that improvements to the softball field are scheduled to be completed this summer, that does little to help Wojtowicz or her senior teammates, who will be gone by the time Avondale enters its new stadium. To ease the earlier-mentioned embarrassment, those seniors have even proposed sharing the junior varsity baseball diamond with the Avondale JV baseball team. The Avondale School District treasurer even agreed with the softball team's proposed field-share.

So far that hasn't been agreed to, leading the Avondale softball supporters to demand an accounting of where the $246,500 allocated to be spent on upgrading their facilities went to instead.

"We're happy to go through the books and everything we've done with you on an accounting standpoint and show you where the dollars went," Avondale Superintendent George Heitsch told the Press. "We're happy to correct a mistake if a mistake has been made."

At the very least, Avondale made a mistake in timing. After all, shortchanging a female team on the 40th anniversary of Title IX isn't the best way to win plaudits from equal opportunity advocates.

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