MIAA receives US complaint over boys playing field hockey

FRANKLIN — The last time Marianne Murphy, Mim Jarema, and Joan Bannon were at a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association meeting seeking to protect girls from boys who played field hockey, they left disappointed. A 10-1 vote in June 2011 went against the field hockey coaches from Walpole, Reading, and Hopkinton.

But if you thought the issue was over, think again.

At Thursday’s board of directors meeting, executive director Dick Neal told the board the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has received a complaint filed against the MIAA. According to the letter, “the complaint alleges that the MIAA and its member schools are discriminating against girls by allowing boys to participate on girls’ field hockey teams.’’

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Prior to boarding a bus for her team’s game at Needham, Murphy was shown a copy of the letter from Office of Civil Rights regional director Thomas Hibino. She acknowledged it wasn’t the first time she’s heard of it. Murphy said, as did Jarema Thursday, the field hockey community was aware of the complaint. Neither, however, would say who filed the complaint until they contacted that person.

The OCR is responsible for enforcing Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by athletic programs receiving federal aid, “and controlled by an organization like the MIAA” according to the letter.

The MIAA would agree with the OCR, but the state’s equal rights amendment has repeatedly been used to strike down any MIAA rule against boys. “There’s no other states that are in this position,’’ said Neal.

If the MIAA doesn’t comply with the OCR, it could end up in court. If the MIAA does comply, it will probably still end up in court for going against a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in 1993. Neal mentioned that the American Civil Liberties Union already has sued the MIAA six times.