School district must make changes for girls athletics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Sweeping changes will have to be made to the Vicksburg Warren School District athletic programs to make the girls and boys programs equal, but how is unclear, members of the school board said Monday night.

“Our backs are against the wall,” board President Zelmarine Murphy said, “but we will not roll over.”

The information came as the school board announced it had struck an agreement with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights to end a six-month inquiry into allegations by parents that the district discriminates against girl athletes.

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A final decision on all the changes will be made in about 10 days, board members said as about 60 coaches and booster club members met at Warren Junior High School.

In one major change, fund-raising and booster club efforts can no longer be for one sport. Instead, money raised to augment public dollars will have to shared by the respective sports. Football, however, even though it involves the most money, will go unchanged because there is no equal sport for girls.

As an example, Vicksburg Warren athletic director Lum Wright Jr. said if you had a bag of marbles and sat down at a table with another person, counted them all out equally and there was one marble left, that marble would have to be split in half.

All fund-raising money has been frozen and will not be released to the programs until the final decision is made, but Superintendent Donald Oakes said fund raising can continue.

In an average year, the boosters have raised up to $10,000 for some athletic programs, coaches have reported.

“In any endeavor, when you reward sloth and discourage hard work, you can’t be shocked with what you get,” said Warren Central baseball booster club president Tom Tankersley.

Coaches said the resolution hinders fund-raising efforts, causing improvement plans for the upcoming seasons to be put on hold.

Specifics about fund-raising and booster clubs went largely unanswered as most of the questions came from booster parents.

“Of all the girls’ sports, I think my program has the most to lose because we raise the most money,” said Warren Central girls’ basketball coach Donny Fuller, who had to cancel one of his large fund-raisers while the resolution was completed.

The four-page agreement outlines changes that must be started immediately and those that must be in effect by the next school year.

In addition, the district will provide plans and blueprints by Feb. 15 of all capital improvements to be made. Improvement money will come from the school’s capital budget, Oakes said.

The 1972 law prohibits the discrimination based on sex in education programs with the threat of losing federal funds. Federal funds are about 10 percent of the district’s $53 million budget.

The complaint was filed by a group of Vicksburg and Warren Central softball parents in March. In August, an investigator from the Office of Civil Rights toured the facilities and met with coaches.

Numerous other school districts nationwide have been cited for disparities and have reached similar consent decrees with federal regulators.