UPDATE: In face of lawsuit, Hawaii Dept. of Education brings in gender equity experts

The Hawaii Department of Education has been taking steps to address gender equity in light of a lawsuit filed in December by the ACLU against Campbell High that alleges gender-based bias and unequal treatment of female athletes.

Aside from funding of about $38 million in the Legislature for some girls athletic locker rooms and softball fields across the state, the DOE is bringing in 15 gender equity specialists and has established two working committees to address Title IX concerns.

“Public education is a critical equalizer and HIDOE is making significant strides towards ensuring that all of our haumana have equitable access to quality learning opportunities,” the DOE said in a prepared statement in response to recent questions by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Prep World. “With the addition of 15 equity specialists — one each dedicated to each of our complex areas — schools now have access to support and expertise as never before.

“Additionally, the Civil Rights Compliance Branch has established two working committees: the Civil Rights Compliance Committee and the Gender Equity in Athletics Committee. Training about the benefits and protections provided under Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (Title IX), which was funded during the 2017 legislative session, was launched in April. Training will continue through the end of the year and primarily focus on three content areas: sexual harassment and violence, including LGBTQ issues; gender equity in programs and services, specifically gender equity in athletics; and how to conduct appropriate investigations of complaints under Title IX.”

In the early 2000s, the DOE formed a committee to address Title IX issues, but it didn’t last.

The ACLU has argued that the recent funding from the Legislature for locker rooms and fields is a good step, but only a small part of the answer.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to accomplish is a broader change in the philosophy about gender equity,” the ACLU’s Wookie Kim said earlier this month. “Title IX is not just about physical structures, but also about equal coaching, equipment and travel opportunities.”

Female students at Campbell who are the plaintiffs in the suit are seeking final injunctive relief with “respect to the class as a whole.” The last part of that phrase will only apply if the ACLU’s motion to make it a class-action suit is granted by a judge. There will be a hearing and possible decision on that motion July 5.

The class action would seek to add all present, future and potential student-athletes at Campbell — and possibly at other schools under the DOE umbrella.


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