Boy Seeks Title IX Protection to Stay on Field Hockey Team (UPDATED)
From guest blogger Hannah Rose Sacks
After two years on the Southampton, N.Y., high school field hockey team, 13-year-old Keeling Pilaro has now been deemed too skilled to compete on the girls' team next season, reports the Associated Press.
Pilaro, who is an 8th grader at an intermediate school in the district, has previously received permission to play on the girls' junior varsity and then varsity teams. But he was denied permission to play next season.
The decision, made by the high school sports governing body for Suffolk County, N.Y., referenced a provision that allows administrators to bar boys from girls' teams if that participation would have a "significant adverse effect" on girls' opportunity to participate. An appeals committee upheld the decision, citing his athletic skillsnot his size or strength.
Pilaro just wants to play. "I don't really care if I'm on a girls' team or a boys' team, I just want to play," he said in a recent interview.
Pilaro is still appealing the decision, with the next hearing set for May 15. Pilaro and his lawyer, Frank Scagluso, argue that he is the victim of gender discrimination in athletics, protected by the Title IX law, originally enacted to ensure equal athletic and educational opportunities for women. Scagluso believes judging the boy based on his skill is subjective and there are many girls with superior skills.
Chris Clements, the national men's USA Field Hockey coach, highlighted the fact that the United States is unusual in not offering broad field hockey programs for boys. Pilaro grew up playing field hockey in Ireland.
Clements believes that at some point the sexes must be separated because of differences in speed and skill. However, Clements believes that at his age, Pilaro should not be disqualified.
"I would say right now he fits in just fine," Clements said in a recent interview. "I'd say right now the girls are just as fast and just as strong. He stands out naturally because he's a boy. He just looks different."
UPDATE (May 16, 12:30 p.m.): After a hearing Tuesday, the high school sports governing body for Suffolk County, Section XI, reversed its decision, allowing Pilaro to continue playing on the girls' field hockey team next season, according to USA Today.
Following next season, Pilaro will be required to reapply to continue playing on the girls' team.
"We're appreciative of the section doing the right thing," said Pilaro's lawyer, Frank Scagluso, to USA Today. "Given the opportunity to review the statistics we assembled and the arguments we made, we appreciate they gave it consideration."
Photo: Keeling Pilaro, center, goes for the ball as a member of the Southhampton High School Girls' Varsity field hockey team during a game against Miller Place in Southhampton, N.Y., last fall. Pilaro has been told he can no longer play on the girls field hockey team because he is now too skilled to qualify for an exemption allowing him to compete with, and against, girls next season. (Gordon M. Grant/Newsday/AP)
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