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Vista Unified Reaches Agreement To 'Level Playing Field' For Female Athletes

Exterior of Vista Unified School District office. October 27, 2020
Tania Thorne
Exterior of Vista Unified School District office. October 27, 2020

The Vista Unified School District has reached an agreement to upgrade and improve its athletic facilities and resources for female student-athletes, resolving a Title IX dispute regarding gender equity at district campuses, it was announced Tuesday.

The agreement with the California Women's Law Center and Legal Aid at Work's Fair Play for Girls in Sports project includes adding more athletic opportunities for girls, building upgraded softball dugouts, bullpens and a scoreboard, and replacing bleachers, among other changes.

Construction on a new softball field has been completed at Rancho Buena Vista High School and completion of Vista High School's new softball field is weeks away. VUSD will also conduct ongoing Title IX training for all district administrators and coaches "to make sure that gender equity is a common language and a continued commitment at all its high schools, supporting a systemic shift toward equity for girls," according to a joint statement released by the California Women's Law Center and Legal Aid at Work.

The school district was initially contacted "on behalf of their clients regarding the inferior facilities, equipment, and treatment softball players were provided compared to many of the boys' programs," according to the statement.

Amy Poyer, senior staff attorney at CWLC and Title IX co-counsel, said, "We are pleased that Vista Unified has agreed to take the steps needed to ensure girls have the same opportunities, treatment and benefits as boys. This resolution shows that even in challenging times, during a pandemic, schools can and must prioritize providing an equitable educational environment for female and male students alike."

The changes VUSD instituted will make the district "a leader in sports equity among CIF San Diego Section schools," which according to the organizations must add a total of 47 participation activities for girls in order to comply with Title IX, the federal law that requires all schools receiving any amount of federal financial assistance to maintain gender equity in their athletic programs.

"Vista Unified is committed to implementing our value of equity throughout the district," said VUSD Superintendent Matthew Doyle. "Athletics is a key aspect of our instructional program, and we are working diligently to ensure that female athletes have the support and resources they need to reach their full potential. Our two new multimillion-dollar softball fields at Rancho Buena Vista High and Vista High are a testament to our commitment to equity for our female athletes."

Kim Turner, director of legal aid at the Work's Fair Play for Girls in Sports project at LAAW, and Title IX co-counsel, said, "Having equal opportunities to play sports is so important for girls, starting at a young age and continuing throughout their life. Girls who play sports get higher grades, have better physical and mental health, and make higher wages as adults. 95% of female executives of Fortune 500 companies played sports growing up."

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