VIDEO: Mayor Tavares and BHS Softball Team Speak Out in Dispute over Fair Play

March 22, 2010, 8:12 AM HST · Updated January 7, 8:19 AM
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By Wendy Osher

The Baldwin High School girls Softball team and County of Maui remain at odds over a suit filed over alleged discrimination.  Three players, their parents and their coach were granted a preliminary injunction Friday in the case, claiming inadequate field conditions and calling for equal access to fields used by boys’ athletics.

“The disparity is gigantic,” said Coach Joe Duran who explained his challenges in leveling the playing field.  “We have to do a lot of maintenance on our fields…and theirs’ pretty much gets done and no one else gets to get on the field—where we are sharing with a bunch of different people.”

“We don’t have anyplace to warm up…so a lot of little things amount to giant things.  One of the things that does affect us though is that the field is still littered with some gigantic rocks which we are not really happy to play on,” said Duran.

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Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the county voluntarily shares its recreational facilities as much as it can and makes its best efforts to accommodate everyone.

“I think we can work things out between and among all of the teams who want the uses, but I think everyone has to be reasonable.  I don’t believe that we are being unreasonable by offering this field (Keopuolani) here,” said Tavares.

“I was a little disturbed at some of the allegations that these are second-class fields; that they are dangerous; that they are not suitable…  I think I saw one statement that said we had dismal fields here at Keopuolani.  And I think that everyone should take another look at these fields—these fields are great…  People have talked about how Maui’s fields for baseball and softball are probably the best in the state,” said Tavares.

A court-appointed expert is expected to recommend short term improvements to alleviate some of the disparity claims.

The following was a statement released by the County of Maui in response to the ACLU Lawsuit:

The County does not discriminate on any basis, including on the basis of gender.  Field 3, where the Baldwin Girls’ Softball team practices,  is in excellent condition and offers a number of amenities including a scoreboard, dug outs, a secured storage room, restrooms, and a working water fountain.

The County of Maui voluntarily shares its recreational facilities with the State’s Department of Education as much as it can. The County is generous in its efforts to meet the needs of organized high school athletics because it recognizes that the Department of Education does not have adequate facilities for its student programs.

The Little League Field that Plaintiffs have previously used is currently under renovation and cannot be used.  The demand by the Plaintiffs for use of the Little League Field inappropriately assumes entitlement to a field built by and for Little League players many years ago.

Field 3 has infield cinders personally selected by Plaintiff Joe Duran. Although this field is used by numerous teams, and in large tournaments, the County has not received any other complaints regarding the field’s condition. The County has a limited number of softball fields and makes its best efforts to accommodate everyone.

While this litigation also addresses how Baldwin High treats its girls’ softball team, those allegations have nothing to do with the County.  It is unfortunate that Plaintiffs have elected to file this lawsuit against the County despite being provided excellent facilities
by the County.  Because the County has not violated the law, we are confident that we will prevail in this lawsuit.

The County of Maui was represented at today’s hearing before the Honorable David A. Ezra by Cheryl Tipton, Jane Lovell and Jeffrey Ueoka.

The following is a statement released by the ACLU following a hearing in Honolulu on Friday:

In a victory for girls athletics, three Baldwin High School (“BHS”) softball players, their parents, and their coach were today granted their request for a preliminary injunction requiring the Hawaii State Department of Education (“DOE”) and the County of Maui (“County”) to immediately rectify their discriminatory treatment of the Baldwin High School girls’ softball team.  A court-appointed expert will recommend short term, immediate improvements to alleviate some of the more egregious disparities between the boys and girls playing fields.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation (“ACLU”) and Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing (“AHFI”) represented the plaintiffs in federal district court hearing held at 2:00 p.m. today.

Judge Ezra, in an extraordinary move, ruled directly from the bench, noting that the current treatment of the Baldwin High School girls softball team was a violation “on its face” and “without reservation” of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (also known as “Title IX”) and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Tina Colman of AHFI said: “We are thrilled to be able to help the Maui girls’ championship softball team be treated equally as the law requires.”

The mission of the ACLU of Hawaii is to protect the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the U.S. and State Constitutions. The ACLU of Hawaii fulfills this through legislative, litigation, and public education programs statewide. The ACLU of Hawaii is a non-partisan and private nonprofit organization that provides its services at no cost to the public and does not accept government funds. The ACLU of Hawaii has been serving Hawaii since 1965.

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