Bristol Warren school committee dispels Title IX rumors, talks compliance

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It’s clear that boys’ tennis will no longer be offered as a competitive sport at Mt. Hope High School this school year.

The sport will continue to be offered as a club, but not competitively in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

The hot-button issue was once again brought to the forefront during a Bristol Warren School District school committee meeting Monday night. In a statement, Committee Chairman Paul Silva responded to the outpouring of concerned citizens and students following the Aug. 13 school committee meeting.

“The administration did some research,” he stated, “and the superintendent sat down with the (athletic director) to go over what was found, and I also received a number of calls, texts and emails.”

One of those calls, he said he felt compelled to mention, was that of Judy Squires, whose father, John Partington brought tennis to the high school in 1967.

“She indicated to me that she spoke to someone at the RI Interscholastic League office who indicated to her that we would not be in violation of Title IX by adding a boys sport without eliminating one,” Mr. Silva said.

Mr. Silva said he followed up Ms. Squires’ phone call, and discovered that the RI Interscholastic League was a “principal’s league” and could not make determinations regarding Title IX compliance and instead, would guide schools to the appropriate resource. In order for the school to remain compliant with Title IX, one boys team would have to be eliminated so to offer another. In this case, boys’ tennis was downgraded to a club sport, making way for a RI Interscholastic League boys’ volleyball team.

“The RI Interscholastic League did also make a specific statement that one of the prongs of Title IX indicates that there is no violation when simply adding a boys sport, so long as there are no girls sports that are being requested that were are not implementing,” Mr. Silva said. “Well, for clarity, we do have a girls sport being requested, field hockey, and are not running it because we do not have the facility to do so.”

Field hockey would damage the fields, said Schools Superintendent Melinda Thies, unless the school installed a turf field.

“We don’t have enough usable field space, and the Bristol recreation department will not allow us to use their fields for that sport,” Mr. Silva said.

Mr. Silva also dispelled a rumor that a girls sport was eliminated last year when fall cheerleading disbanded.

“Only winter cheerleading is considered a varsity sport by the RI Interscholastic League, and therefor, fall cheerleading was not a varsity sport for purposes of Title IX,” he said.

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