“I think there was a longstanding practice of who accessed what when. It doesn’t mean it was always right, but I think that’s the way that I think that the softball team and the baseball team had progressed over the years. But as soon as those issues came to our attention it gave us an opportunity to take a look at past practice. And it doesn’t mean that just because it’s always been done that way that we should continue doing it.
“So when we identified that there was in fact a need to change, we made that change. And from what the parents have told me, they’ve appreciated that we’ve paid attention to these issues.”
The fact that the situation with the softball team’s home field has been going on for so long does not mitigate it, Casoli said.
“Absolutely not,” Casoli said. “It shows that they have been, at best, ignorant and at worst outright willfully in violation of Title IX.”
Erin Buzuvis, a law professor at Western New England University and a Title IX expert, has not been involved in the local discussion, but did a quick review of the situation in North Reading.
“It’s not equitable for the girls to have to pay for their own transportation off campus or to not have fields of comparable quality,” she said. “And it’s even more egregious that at a moment when the school is adding new facilities, it’s not seeking to correct that inequity but is perhaps going to exacerbate it.”
Like Casoli and Lehner, Tom Magner does not have a daughter on the softball team. But the situation did not sit right with him, so he joined North Reading Citizens for Equality to support its efforts.
“I attended an [athletic] subcommittee meeting recently and I came away from that feeling that everybody involved genuinely wants to do the right thing,” said Magner. “But there’s a difference of opinion on what that means. And there are some people that feel very strongly that they can make a few changes to the existing facility and make it all right, and there are some others who are a little more open-minded about reworking the entire plan.
“But I don’t think there’s any malice. I do think they genuinely want to make it right. I just think we don’t all agree on how to get there.”
Maureen Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.