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FRAMINGHAM – Framingham Public School District’s athletic department underwent an audit after a Framingham high girls hockey parent filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in April 2018, complaining that the girls ice program was not treated as equally as the boys hockey program.

The girls ice hockey program has struggled to win games each of the last couple of seasons, but under a new coach is making great strides to improve. The boys ice program is typically vying for a state title, and gets more ice time as they make the playoffs.

The complaint prompted an investigation, which led to the district hiring a consultant to audit and investigate the athletic department.

The audit which cost about $50,000 was due in January 2021, but was submitted months later and finally presented to the 9-member elected Framingham School Committee to review this month. The School Committee discussed the audit at a meeting last night, October 6.

The Office of Civil Rights is meeting with the school district’s new manager of diversity and inclusion with oversight on Title IX compliance Saundra Edwards on Friday, October 8. The Office of Civil Rights has yet to accept the auditor’s findings.

The Pennsylvania consultant said the District’s athletic program did not “meet compliance in any part of the three-part test,” when it comes to athletics.

But the consultant excluded the defending state champion Flyers dance team and the defending state champion Flyers cheerleading program at Framingham High, both which are dominated by girl athletes, in the audit. The auditor said they were not sports.

Excluding cheerleading, as well as the fall and winter dance teams, lowered the number of girls participating in athletics by 50-60 individuals.

In 2018-19, 865 male students were involved in athletics but only 618 girls, a difference of almost 250 students but it is unclear from the audit if that is due to a lack of opportunities or a lack of interest.

For example, cross-country is a no cut sports team, but only 16 girls are on the squad this season.

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Looking at the fall programs overall in 2021, coming out of the pandemic, many of the sports teams had lower numbers, but some teams had a huge interest based on registration numbers.

There were 37 girls who registered for cheerleading and 34 athletes are on the varsity and junior varsity squads in 2021.

In dance, 22 athletes registered and 19 made the team,

In girls soccer, there were 63 athletes who tried out with 56 on the three teams – varsity, junior varsity, and freshman. There are 20 on varsity, 17 on junior varsity, and 19 on freshman.

Coaches determine the size of a team and who to cut from a team.

In comparison, 125 boys tried out for soccer, with 65 on the three teams. There are 23 on varsity, 22 on junior varsity and 20 on the freshman squad.

There were 85 girls who tried out for volleyball, with 40 making a team. There are 14 on varsity, 13 on junior varsity, and 13 on freshman.

Field hockey had 41 athletes try out and all made either varsity or junior varsity, including at least one boy.

Framingham girls swim & dive had 37 girls register for the team, one girl was cut, 2 quit, and 4 never made it to the pool, so the team has 29 athletes in 2021.

Football, just like in the colleges, has the largest number for athletics and typically is all boys. There are 62 on varsity, 25 on junior varsity, and 26 on junior varsity.

Cross-country is a no cut sport — all who wish to join the team can. There are 39 boys and 16 girls in 2021.

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The unified basketball program is co-ed and a no cut athletic team as well. There are 16 athletes. Framingham High was recognized by Special Olympics earlier this year for its unified program. The auditor did not include the unified basketball team in the fall nor the unified track team in the spring as part of her findings.

The Framingham High boys golf team had 42 register but only 25 made the team. The athletic department announced yesterday, that a girls only golf team will begin in Spring 2022.

Framingham School Committee members were angry that the audit did not come to them sooner, and complained why an audit received in May was not on their agenda until October.

“As part of the resolution, the District was required to conduct an objective interests and
abilities assessment of students in grades 8-12 to determine the existence and/or scope of any
unmet athletic interests of female students. The assessment considers whether the interested
students have the ability to sustain an interscholastic team. The interested students do not
need to have the ability to sustain a successful or elite team; rather, they only need to have the
potential to participate in team tryouts, practices, and competitions, and, with coaching, the
potential to attain sufficient ability to participate at the particular level of competition (varsity,
junior varsity, freshman, etc.) in which they have expressed interest,” wrote Superintendent Bob Tremblay in his October 6 report to the School Committee.

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The memo to the School Committee recommended several steps.

  1. The District will build upon the existing relationship that we have with the City’s Parks
    and Recreation Department. School officials will collaborate in order to assist the City’s
    Parks and Recreation Department personnel better understand the application of Title
    IX to the school’s interscholastic athletic program. Although formal approval of this
    action item has not yet been provided to the District by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
    due to personnel changes at OCR, the District has nevertheless begun conversations
    with the Framingham Parks and Recreation Department who have oversight and
    jurisdiction over much of the athletic fields and complexes about necessary capital
    improvements and investments, field usage, and building access.
  2. The District has conducted a locker room evaluation, consistent with the audit
    recommendations, in order to provide locker rooms for teams who desire them,
    especially girls’ teams. Discussions have taken place with the coaching staff and
    student athlete leaders from each team regarding the distribution and rotation of locker
    rooms. While the coaching staff has not requested changes to the locker room locations
    or assignments, including the buildout of new locker room space(s), the District is
    awaiting a final determination by OCR as to whether additional facility/capital
    adjustments are needed despite this recommendation from the FPS Athletics
    Department and coaching staff.
  3. The District has reviewed the use of the middle school gymnasiums in order to make
    them more accessible to teams especially when there is inclement weather and teams
    need space to practice. With the new, oversized Fuller Middle School gymnasium now
    online and the school-department owned gymnasium at the Farley Building (MassBay
    site) in the process of being cleaned and prepped for expanded athletics usage, the
    District continues to expand the available space for student athletes both for in-school
    programming and for community partners who also seek additional space for
    youth-serving programs.
  4. The District is making a concerted effort to provide support groups as desired to all
    boys’ and girls’ teams for both home and away events with great interest in equally
    providing support groups for both boys and girls events. Efforts are already underway
    for student athletes – at the Direction of our coaching staff – to be present and in
    support of one another at home events. The availability of transportation for students
    who may wish to travel to support teams who are at away events is currently a
    challenge for the District. Once transportation becomes more readily available, the
    District will eagerly implement opportunities to equally support all student athletes,
    particularly at away events.
  5. OCR’s policy requires schools to make an equivalent effort to publicize and promote
    their boys’ and girls’ programs, even if the result is that only boys’ teams receive media
    coverage because newspapers, radio, and television have no obligations to provide
    equitable coverage. The FPS Athletics Department is tracking the communications
    provided to local media outlets to ensure consistency and equality in the distribution of
    promotional materials and has, at its disposal, the District Media & Communications
    Office to assist with sustaining or leveraging new connections to local media outlets.
  6. The Title IX Athletics Program Compliance Review recommends that the District’s Title
    IX Coordinator assume oversight and monitoring of the high school interscholastic
    athletic programs so that the District is compliant with Title IX and so that the District
    Athletic Director is able to coordinate the activities at the school level that are designed
    to promote gender equity in athletics (e.g., establishing a Gender Equity Committee,
    Title IX Strategic Plan, Annual Title IX Review, Maintenance of a Permanent Title IX
    File, Staff Professional Development around Title IX Compliance, etc.).
    Consistent with that recommendation, the District has hired Dr. Saundra Edwards as
    the new Manager of Diversity and Inclusion with direct oversight of District Title IX
    compliance. Dr. Edwards is a graduate of the Framingham Public Schools having
    attended Hemenway Elementary School, Walsh Middle School and Framingham High
    School before attending Wellesley College. She later went on to earn a law degree and
    served as an Assistant District Attorney for Plymouth County.
    Next steps, include the establishment of a communication plan to recruit members for a
    Gender Equity Committee, adoption of a new Title IX tracking tool and permanent Title
    IX file, and administration of the student athletics participation survey, are ready to be
    taken upon OCR approval.
  7. Once established, the Gender Equity Committee shall develop a Title IX Strategic Plan
    and timetable for implementation of the Plan. The Gender Equity Committee will
    monitor the Plan continuously and implement corrective action as necessary. The
    Strategic Plan will include a review of the current status of sports offerings for boys and
    girls and compare such areas as locker rooms, practice and competition facilities,
    coaching stipends, hiring process and student-athlete access to coaches, sports
    budgets and expenditures (including total expenses for each gender), Booster/Parent
    organizations, equipment and supplies, travel practices and allowances, medical and
    training facilities, and the scheduling of games and practice times among other matters
    related to athletics and gender equity as provided in the more detailed report. Any
    budgetary needs associated with this effort will either be absorbed in the FY22
    operating budget, included in the FY23 budget proposal, or both.
  8. The District will recommend any necessary policy changes (e.g., Policy JJIB:
    Interscholastic Athletics, and a new policy on Booster Clubs) through the appropriate
    policy development processes, implement any necessary procedural changes, and
    provide any additional oversight of all funding resources that support the
    interscholastic athletic program in the District in consideration of the audit findings,
    especially Title IX compliance and directives around gender equity, once the third party
    recommendation has been approved by OCR.
  9. Once approved by OCR, the District will establish an Oversight Committee to develop
    procedures and to monitor and direct Booster Clubs, Parent Groups, Team Fundraising
    and any other outside resources to ensure that the entire FPS athletic program is
    supported and enhanced.

Steps 8 and 9 could place limits on activity & fundraising efforts for 501C3 booster programs for teams like boys ice hockey or girls swim & dive. It could curtail sport-specific fundraising. It could also have an impact on the gridiron club and other programs that support athletic teams.

Teams that do fundraise, and if allowed to fundraise, may have to place funds in a general athletic fund as opposed to a specific team.

That is still to be determined and voted on, but the chair of the School Committee Adam Freudberg expressed interested in doing this last night. Chair Freudberg said he was in favor of implementing these 9 recommendations immediately, including the gender equity Title IX Committee and the restrictions on booster programs.

Freudberg called the audit “scathing.”

District 5 School Committee member Priscila Sousa questioned why the district was looking at the Title IX audit with rose-colored glasses.” She said the district “failed” its 3-part test.

But Framingham Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Joseph Corazinni said the district has not yet had a chance to go over the 56-page audit page by page with the Office of Civil Rights.

The Assistant Superintendent pointed out that the audit had omissions of facts and that some of the findings of the audit do not fall under the Framingham Public School Department but the City of Framingham and its Parks & Recreation Department.

For example, the City of Framingham and Parks & Recreation do not allow any athletes but football to use the locker room at Bowditch Field, noted the auditor.

The auditor’s report said the Framingham Parks & Recreation Department has lights at the baseball diamond for the boys baseball team but that the Parks & Recreation department has no lights installed at the softball field for the girls softball team.

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In the report it was noted the girls swim & dive team coach told the auditor he sometimes does not take all swimmers & divers to away meets, and that the boys coach does take all swimmers and divers to away meets.

But the girls swim & dive team — at that time — had more than 50 swimmers & divers, and the boys team only had about 2 dozen swimmers and divers.

District 6 School Committee member Geoffrey Epstein complained the money coming into athletics needs to be properly managed and that money from the sporting events needs to be managed, but not all money collected at sporting events goes to the school department or athletics. For example, Parks & Recreation sometimes takes the money at the gate at Bowditch Field.

District 7 School Committee member Tiffanie Maskell said she was with Sousa & Freudberg and that “this is not right.”

She said it is the School Committee’s role to change policies so “our girls and our boys are equal on teams.”

Framingham High offers 11 sports teams in the fall.

Football is mostly boys, but girls have been on the team in the last decade.

Cheerleading is typically girls. Dance is mostly girls but boys have been on the team.

For the last couple of years, boys have played on girls field hockey team, that it has been designated as a co-ed team. The unified basketball team is coed.

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The golf team is mostly boys but has had girls on it, including new girls golf coach Jillian Jones.

Girls swim & dive is offered in the fall with boys swim & dive offered in the winter season.

Cross-country and soccer both have boys and girls programs in the fall.

In the winter, there are 12 teams. basketball, hockey, and indoor track & field have both a girls & boys team.

Gymnastics is traditionally mostly girls but boys have been on the team.

The championship dance team has been mostly girls but boys have been on the squad. Cheerleading is typically all girls.

Wrestling is mostly boys, but there have been girls on the team.

Alpine ski is a co-ed group.

In the spring, there have been 9 sports but come 2022 there will be 10 with girls golf.

Lacrosse, tennis, and track & field have both a girls & boys team in the spring.

There is girls softball and boys baseball.

And while girls volleyball competes in the fall, boys volleyball competes in the spring.

One of the reasons there are many girls on traditional boys teams and girls on traditional boys teams, is that the Framingham athletic department has the first in the nation gender-equity policy for sports.

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.