Almost a year after a group of softball parents filed a Title IX suit against Stillwater Public Schools on behalf of their daughters, the school district is addressing their concerns.
Superintendent Marc Moore met with a group of parents and coaches, including softball coach Karie Linsenmeyer, Wednesday to talk about what the district is doing to live up to the settlement agreement the litigants agreed to June 7.
The school district made no admission of wrongdoing or liability but agreed to make a list of facility and procedural improvements. It also agreed to pay $20,000 in attorney's fees for the plaintiffs.
Under the terms of the agreement, before July 1 SPS was to place signage on the softball field fence identifying it as the district’s field and informing the public that school teams have priority use.
A field and facility maintenance plan was to be created and put in place with input from the softball coach.
Many concerns dealt with parity in terms of facilities and resources the district makes available to the baseball team compared to the softball team, including facility repairs, access to trainers, travel opportunities, use of buses and district efforts to promote women's sports teams.
By Aug. 1, the district was to order replacement fencing comparable to the fencing at the football field and install it as soon as possible after, modify the softball press box to include a public address system comparable to the PA system at the baseball field, install ADA-compliant spectator seating comparable to the seating at the baseball facility, install ADA-compliant sidewalks to give access to the various areas of the softball complex and give softball players practicing in the spring designated access to a locker room at the high school with necessary repairs completed by Oct. 15.
The district also agreed to establish a plan for replacing the softball scoreboard installed in 2020 in the same manner as other teams and provide a protective net over the scoreboard.
Moore told the parents Wednesday that bids for the fencing project will be presented to the Board of Education for approval Monday. In addition to new fencing for both the baseball and softball fields, a new brick entrance has been included.
The project cost is estimated at more than $80,0000.
An air of distrust still hung over the room as the parents talked to Moore. It will take time for some people to get past it, softball parent Debbie Aguilar said.
Some parents have expressed dissatisfaction with how quickly the district is meeting the terms of the settlement agreement.
On Aug. 11, plaintiff Angela Morgan submitted a letter to the editor to the News Press saying many of the items that should have already been completed according to the settlement agreement still had not been addressed.
In their initial filing, the plaintiffs had contended the district was denying female athletes equal treatment and benefits, a situation they told the News Press had gone on for a long time.
It came to a head as the 2020 softball season was about to start over frustrations with the softball facility’s poor condition and the fact that a hand-me-down scoreboard the softball program got from Oklahoma State University in the 1990s still hadn’t been replaced nine months after boosters raised money to pay for it. The parents said they had not been given clear rules for how booster clubs should operate.
Funding is an issue Moore said the district is addressing.
SPS is looking more closely at fundraising and donations, he said. Moving forward, if a donation for one program results in a situation that isn’t equitable, that donation can’t be accepted.
He also agreed that communication could be improved.
“We are committed to equity and the lawsuit allowed us to look at things at a deeper level,” Moore told the parents. “What we’re doing now is better than what we were doing last year.”