The opening ceremony at Schmid Field in Washougal, WA was a joyous day for parents and children alike. Finally, East County baseball/softball players had a first class facility with ample parking, adequate restrooms and seating, excellent handicapped accessibility, room for concession stands, and more. But for the East County Little League(ECLL) female softball players, the festivities were short lived. After just one fall season of playing, the board at the ECLL decided that the field the girls started playing on would be used for boys only and filled in with grass.
Unfortunately, options for east county softball players are limited. Hamlick field in Washougal has inadequate parking and bathroom facilities. For handicapped family members, it is nearly impossible for them to navigate the muddy, unmaintained walkway to enjoy the game. Not to mention, there are no bleachers for spectators on the side of the home team.
The other option, Goot Park in Camas, is a nice field, but the benches are falling apart, the girls do not have a covered dug out to shield them from the sun on hot days, and because there are just 6 parking spots, neighborhood residents are forced to deal with the streets lined with cars for hours on end.
Because their are limited facilities for the girls to play and they are no longer allowed to play at Schmid Field, scheduling games is difficult and practices are being canceled to accommodate make up games.
However, there are a variety of times/dates available at Schmid field.... but only for the boys.
Reasons given for the inequity include:
- The "season has already started"
- That "skinned fields are preferred for softball", and they "would not destroy the field" they have for the girls to be able to play
- One board field maintenance member stated clearly "we will not put girls at Schmid"
- A higher up in the league stated that "boys have never had a decent field to play on and it must be kept for them" and "do you know how long the boys have had to wait to have decent side-by-side fields"?
Really? As far as I know, the girls don't have one at this time. So they should wait longer than the boys?? The boys deserve first class facilities before the girls? What year is this.... 1925 or 2010?
Many parents have offered solutions... even offering to foot the bill to make the field appropriate for both boys and girls, and their suggestions are shot down. When parents asked if the board if they would be willing to engage in dialog on the issue, they were flat out told "NO". The situation has been taken to the ECLL board, including the president of the league, to the school district (who owns the field), to local city government officials, and beyond.... and still NO action.
In the opinion of the opposers of this obvious prejudice, this is a violation of discrimination laws. Federally funded fields owned by the School District must comply with RCW 28A.640.010, stating that the district must take action when an issue of gender inequity is brought to their attention. Parents further ascertain that the City of Washougal has failed to comply with RCW 49.60.505... stating that discrimination is not allowed in community sports programs.
The conclusion, the girls softball teams are being treated unfairly by ECLL by not allowing them the opportunity to play at the highest quality fields available. Should discriminating against female athletes be allowed in this day and age? Washington law clearly states that it shouldn't, and local parents of softball players agree.