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Lexington athletic chief gets unpaid leave

Lexington’s athletic director was placed on unpaid leave for a week starting Thursday, after she admitted to fabricating infor­mation in an e-mail to ­other athletic directors in the Middlesex League.

Naomi Martin  sent e-mail Nov. 15 to athletic directors in 11 other local districts, including Arlington, Belmont, ­Reading, Watertown, and ­Woburn, saying that the league was not in compliance with ­Title IX, which promotes ­gender equity in school sports.

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Martin, who has been ­Lexington’s athletic director since 2010, told her counterparts in the e-mail that an ­unnamed Lexington parent was threatening to sue if gender ­inequity in the basketball schedule was not rectified.

As a result, the Middlesex League schedule was changed, to allow girls’ basketball varsity squads to play at 7 p.m. rather than 5:30 p.m. The later times tend to draw more spectators and make it easier for parents to attend games.

A parent, Kathryn Robb, had written to Lexington High school’s principal Nov. 14 regard­ing the same issue, and Martin quoted from Robb at length in her e-mail to the athletic directors.

But Martin embellished when she said that the parent had threatened to file a civil rights lawsuit and go to The Boston Globe with her complaints, according to a letter of apology Martin wrote to Robb on Jan. 19. Martin also told athletic directors that the parent was targeting the entire league, even though Robb only mentioned Lexington.

“I know this was wrong, and I deeply regret having communicated as I did,’’ Martin said in her letter to Robb. “I sincerely apologize.”

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Martin could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Karen Schwartzman, the spokeswoman for the schools, said Martin would be placed on one week unpaid leave beginning Thursday.

Michael Lahiff, Watertown’s athletic director, said he did not want to comment directly on the dispute but praised Martin as dedicated.

Superintendent Paul Ash, who referred the Globe’s ­request for comment to a spokesman, sent a letter to the area athletic directors Jan. 19, to correct the record.

“While I believe the e-mail was well intentioned insofar as it was written to advance the league’s compliance with ­Title IX, Ms. Martin’s decision to strengthen her advocacy by falsely stating that the league had been threatened by a parent with both a lawsuit and negative publicity for noncompliance is unacceptable and must be corrected,” Ash wrote in the letter.

Robb, a mother of five and a longtime volunteer basketball coach, said she is frustrated with the superintendent’s ­response.

“I find it difficult to believe there wouldn’t be swift and ­severe action for a student’’ if the student had misrepresented an e-mail, Robb said in a phone interview with the Globe Wednesday.

She said she does not know what would be appropriate discipline in this case, but she said her reputation has been ruined with parents thinking she threatened to sue the schools.

Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.

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