Amy M. Goodman
Sunday, April 29, 2012 12:32 PM
Mr. Roberts aligns the athletics programs his association governs with “a broad spectrum of American life, including sports.” While the “broad spectrum of American life” is vague, because “sports” are highlighted, I take it to mean Mr. Roberts is wondering why people view the MHSAA as different from, for example, travel youth soccer leagues, or AAU youth basketball, or the USA Hockey program housed in my town, Ann Arbor.
The majority of member athletic programs that the MHSAA serves are sponsored by publicly funded school districts. As such, they are subject to policies that privately funded or professional sports organizations are not, for example, Title IX. Even if this voluntary interscholastic athletic association had only one public school district as a member, there would be a different standard for discrimination or allowing/denying access than would be policies governing privately-funded organizations such as Vardar Soccer Club or the Wolverine Swim Club. In some instances, private leagues must adhere to the public school policies when using facilities that are supported with public funds.
By association, activities sponsored by public schools are expected to offer access; ideally public education is all about equal access. Even though it is a constant struggle to realize equal access, it is the good fight. The definition of “equal” is not static; it must be revisited on a regular basis as the educational environment in schools or our culture evolves. The enactment of Title IX was fought by many schools and colleges, but gratefully “equal” means something different for young women today than it did in the 1950s, for our culture was changing.
The growing practice of educational inclusion in public schools comes on the heels of mainstreaming for boys and girls with physical and intellectual challenges. This evolution in education is an opportunity to review existing policies of all organizations serving public schools in a new light. It would be expedient to amend the MHSAA constitution now, and clearly lay out a path for how the practice of educational inclusion plays out in the sports arena.
The rule was meant to ensure that older, more experienced and physically mature men were not unfairly placed on the field with younger boys; it was to ensure “equality” for boys who were age-grade aligned. In that context it’s a good rule.
Good rules are only relevant if they fit into the context of the times. This rule must be reviewed in the context of the new demographics that public school districts serve. Better to define exceptions than to face separate but equal sports programs. The hard work that it would take to craft an exception policy for boys and girls with physical or intellectual disabilities would be proactive and timely; moreover, I think it is the MHSAA’s job as the centralized governing body.
Mr. Roberts further states that the reason the MHSAA is taking heat on its rigid adherence to an outdated rule is because it is a centralized authority. Of course it is. That is also your job.
And so I agree with Mr. Roberts on his two main points. Is the MHSAA subject to different standard when compared to privately funded sports? You betcha. Is the MHSAA a convenient “target” because it is a centralized authority? You betcha. A centralized authority is expected to help members keep pace with the changing forces bearing on their programs, not maintain an outdated status quo, or in this case, cling to a belief that a high school athletic association represents privilege instead of rights.
No compliment intended, backhanded or otherwise.