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Lack of softball field gets scrutiny

The North Reading Citizens for Equality says the town is in direct violation of Title IX requirements, citing the lack of a varsity softball field on the high school campus in a detailed 40-minute presentation to the School Committee on Monday night.

There is now a varsity baseball field and a smaller practice field at the high school at 191 Park St. Because of the on-campus proximity, baseball players have access to both locker rooms and bathrooms. However, the girls’ softball players practice and play at a field at the middle school, located 2.5 miles away.

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There are no bathrooms, no locker rooms, and the school does not provide transportation or travel reimbursement.

Last March, the town was presented with a plan for a new high school/middle school. The proposed project, 50 percent funded by the state, included a softball field at the school. The proposal passed with a super majority, through Town Meeting.

But in September, the School Committee recommended to the Secondary School Building Committee to remove a softball field in favor of a practice baseball field.

“People are quite upset,” said Jennifer Casoli, who delivered the presentation for the North Reading Citizens for Equality.

Casoli highlighted several infractions that are in direct violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education: lack of locker rooms and bathrooms, and also raised a few other issues: practice time, conditions of the field, and outside resources.

The baseball team can practice immediately after school, but the softball team must wait until classes at the middle school are done.

A tarp covers the baseball field during poor weather and the winter, it has an irrigation system, and is freshly seeded. The softball field does not, and upon request, the team was denied permission to work on the field themselves.

In her presentation, Casoli cited the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., which said the situation in North Reading is “a clear violation of Title IX.”

The School Committee said that it would review the matter.

The new school is not scheduled to be completed until the fall of 2015.

Pat Bradley can be reached at
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