The Morgan Hill Unified School District, accused of failing to provide equal resources for male and female athletics programs, has agreed to make substantial upgrades and renovations to baseball and softball fields at Live Oak High School, according to a settlement agreement announced Oct. 19 by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

The resolution includes a list of additional requirements by MHUSD to ensure the school and district are in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, says the announcement from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Other requirements include providing equal access to locker room facilities for female athletes, equivalent opportunities for coaching and the creation of local committees to ensure compliance with the law. 

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity provided by a recipient of federal financial assistance. Although the vast majority of athletics funding at Live Oak is supplied by boosters and fundraisers, according to the OCR’s investigation report, MHUSD is subject to Title IX requirements because the district receives federal funding for other departments. 

Following an investigation into a complaint, the OCR found that female athletes at Live Oak did not have the same access to athletics resources as male athletes when it comes to equipment, scheduling of game times, travel, coaching, locker room and competitive facilities, medical and training facilities and publicity, according to OCR. 

Specifically, the investigation found that Live Oak’s boys’ baseball team had more and higher quality facilities and resources than the girls’ softball team. The OCR noted that the baseball team has two fields for its exclusive use, while the softball program has only one field. 

The varsity baseball field also included amenities that the softball field lacked, such as lighting, a scoreboard and a PA system, according to OCR. Investigators also found that some boys’ athletics programs enjoyed access to charter buses for transportation to visiting venues, while the girls’ programs lacked such access. In fact, the girls’ teams may have been required to provide their own transportation to away games and matches. 

Furthermore, the girls’ programs did not have the same quality of equipment as the boys’ teams, nor did the females have equal access to the school’s weight room, athletic trainer or locker room, investigators said. The girls’ programs also did not have equitable publicity from the school’s social media accounts, and had less opportunity than boys’ teams to receive coaching at Live Oak, according to the OCR. 

“Today’s resolution with Morgan Hill Unified School District addresses the disparities in the quality and availability of benefits for female athletes that OCR observed in the athletics programs at Live Oak High School,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in an Oct. 19 statement. “Morgan Hill Unified School District has committed now to provide all its students with equivalent access to athletic opportunities regardless of sex, as Title IX has long required.”

The resolution agreement—which was formally sent to MHUSD in an Oct. 19 letter from OCR—commits the district to take the steps needed to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in all of its education programs and activities, including athletics, OCR said.

The OCR notified MHUSD in June 2022 that it had received a civil rights complaint regarding the equity of female and male sports programs at the East Main Avenue high school. Documentation released by OCR does not indicate exactly when it received the complaint, and the office does not publicly identify those who submit complaints in order to protect their privacy. 

In a statement, MHUSD Board of Education President Ivan Rosales Montes said the agreement with the Department of Education’s OCR presents the district with “an opportunity.” 

“The Morgan Hill Unified School District is committed to providing all students with equitable access and opportunities in everything we do. We recognize and embrace the areas for improvement that have been identified and will work devotedly to ensure implementation of changes as soon as possible,” Montes said. “This is an opportunity to move our community forward and be a champion for all athletes regardless of gender across our district.”

Under the agreement between the federal office and MHUSD, according to the OCR, the district has promised to implement the following:

– Creating committees to ensure that differences in fundraising between teams will not create disparities in athletic equipment, uniforms or supplies based on sex.

– Renovating Live Oak’s existing varsity softball field to include the same features as its varsity baseball field.

– Converting Live Oak’s practice baseball field to a multipurpose field that can be used for softball and baseball, and ensuring that the softball team has equal access to the renovated multipurpose field.

– Providing equal access to locker room facilities for female athletes, including access to the athletic locker room.

– Giving female athletes equivalent opportunities to receive coaching.

– Equalizing Live Oak’s girls’ and boys’ athletics teams’ access and opportunity to use vans, buses or charter buses for transportation.

– Training MHUSD employees who are involved in athletic programs about the district’s obligations under Title IX and the law’s application to athletics.

– Ensuring Live Oak’s girls’ and boys’ athletics teams have equitable access to the school’s athletic trainer, weight room and training facilities.

According to the OCR investigation, Live Oak’s athletics programs rely significantly on a private booster club for funding, but that funding is not necessarily distributed equally among all sports teams. Each team may separately raise funds for their own needs, and funds raised by one team are not shared with other squads. 

An unidentified Live Oak coach described the funding model as “the wild west” and teams have to “fend for themselves” to obtain funding for their needs, says the OCR report. 

“OCR learned that the boys’ lacrosse and football teams raise significantly more than other programs through fundraising, which allows these programs access to higher quality equipment, better transportation, and other benefits not available to the other athletic programs,” says the OCR report. “Multiple coaches described the financial support in the surrounding community as finite and the amount the football (fall season) and boys’ lacrosse (spring season) teams are able to fundraise affects the ability of other teams to generate revenue. They said that it feels like the teams are competing against each other for resources because they have to fundraise from a small community.”

When it comes to coaching resources for male and female sports programs, OCR investigators found that during the 2021-22 school year, the girls’ programs had a ratio of about 12 athletes per coach, while the boys’ programs had seven athletes per coach. 

Under the terms of the agreement, MHUSD does not admit to violating the law. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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