Utah County high school administrators are feeling pressure to expand their girls sports programs, but they don't know where to get the money to meet the obligation.
Several Northern Utah school districts were threatened recently with a lawsuit by a parent who believed his daughter was being discriminated against. The school she attended had no girls soccer team, and though she was permitted to participate on the boys team, she spent a lot of time on the bench.The Utah High School Activities Association responded by sanctioning girls soccer and softball for all of the state's high schools, and the sex-discrimination lawsuit was subsequently dropped.
Schools are not required technically to implement the programs because they are sanctioned, but Utah County school officials say they see no other option if they want to avoid litigation.
The two high schools in the Provo School District are planning surveys to determine students' interest in the two sports.
Timpview High School principal Kay Laursen said some of his female students have shown interest in forming a soccer team. The school will cooperate, he said, but right now he doesn't know how to deal with the obstacles.
"We like to support our kids, but from an administrator's point of view, we think we have too many sports now. Where do you find coaches, for instance? They have to be certified," he said. "Usually we try to find them on our staff, but they have to be paid. That's just a challenge we'll have to try to solve. We'll just have to see if we can make it work."
Critics say that if schools can find the money to support boys sports programs, they will have to find it for girls, too. Principals like Laursen will be looking for extra financial help from their districts.
Laursen said it will cost his school several thousand dollars each year to maintain the new programs. Another problem facing many schools is that they don't have adequate facilities for additional teams to use.
Many schools, including Timpview, don't have any baseball diamonds or soccer fields. The boys teams are now using city parks, but school officials wonder if there will be enough city facilities to go around with girls teams in need, too.
"I believe the girls ought to have opportunities, but we're so strung out," Laursen said. "It's going to have to be funded somewhere. Those sports (soccer and softball) will never bring any money back in to support them, anyway. It'll be another burden, but that's the way it goes."
Nebo School District officials have the same coaching and facility problems Provo has, but they are also worried about transportation expenses, because their region requires them to travel as far as St. George, said Dean Allan, director of secondary education.
Two of Nebo's four high schools, (Payson and Springville), have students interested in soccer and softball.
"If there's an interest, there's no reason not to provide the sports," Allan said. "I sense that the girls would like to get a team together and compete with the other schools."