House Bill SD1 CD1, which includes athletic funding for high schools, has passed the Legislature and is headed to Gov. David Ige for his signature.
The funding plans include about $35 million for girls athletic locker rooms and about $3 million for softball fields.
In light of that effort by the state, officials at the ACLU and the Department of Education were asked for their comments since there is an ongoing lawsuit by the ACLU against the DOE and Campbell High School that alleges gender-based bias against girls and calls for the implementation of equal facilities and participation, among other things. That suit is awaiting a judge’s decision on whether to make it a class action that would bring in many or all of the state’s other individual public high schools as defendants.
“In general our position is of course it is great when the state can dedicate resources to schools for gender-equality issues,” the ACLU’s Wookie Kim said. “There is a caveat to this. This should have been happening all along. And because they are allocating funding doesn’t mean they are increasing resources and using them in an equitable manner. Ultimately, what we’re trying to accomplish is a broader change in the philosophy about gender equity. Title IX is not just about physical structures, but also about equal coaching, equipment and travel opportunities. This bill addresses some facility issues. It’s a positive step.”
Kim Turner of Legal Aid at Work, which is partnering with the ACLU in the litigation, added, “The girls at Campbell, for instance, are getting far fewer opportunities.”
Turner pointed out that the lawsuit states Campbell has 106 fewer girls athletic participants than boys. She added that similar situations, where girls have fewer roster spots than boys, have been found to be common at public schools across the state.
“They’re not asking girls, ‘What do you want to play,’ enough,” she said.
Kim and Turner have heard that the DOE is going to re-form a gender equity commission that existed in the early 2000s before petering out, and that the DOE will be bringing in a Title IX expert to train administrators. But the DOE has not confirmed those steps.
“We are delighted that the Legislature is coming to the support of girls athletics in Hawaii’s schools,” DOE spokesperson Lindsay Chambers said. “The DOE is always striving to improve gender equity in our schools and to advance female athletic opportunities.”
Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the bill passed through the Legislature.