A complaint about gender discrimination with Canyon High’s athletic facilities prompted a federal investigation into softball field and facility conditions at Canyon High in Santa Clarita, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
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The Department of Education is investigating allegations regarding inequality with respect to the Canyon Country high school’s baseball and softball facilities. Hart district officials said they have not been notified of the formal complaint as of Friday morning.
“We haven’t seen the complaint, yet,” said Gail Pinsker, Hart district spokeswoman. “We will respond to a complaint that comes in as we always do, in a timely manner, and report and respond to the community and the media, to every allegation that’s presented to us.”
Canyon High softball head coach Tim Melton said while he didn’t file the complaint, he has had dialogue with Hart district officials, including at Canyon High and at the district office, over facilities concerns.
One of the issues cited in the Title IX complaint was an aging equipment shed with holes that allowed rats to crawl around near the team’s gear.
Melton said he had a concern about the equipment shed, but it was brought to the district staff and district officials began the process for acquiring a new shed, which was confirmed by district officials.
The complaint also cites the lack of a proper irrigation system, leaving the outfield a dirt patch where grass should be.
Melton said he did have two concerns about the Canyon High softball facilities based around the risks they posed to his players, he said.
The waist-high collapsible mesh fence that lines the outfield leads to players frequently trip over the barrier in pursuit of long drives. A chain-link fence could really help alleviate concern.
There are also gopher holes in the dirt-covered outfield that caused an incoming freshman to hurt her ankle last year, he said. He said he’s already contacted the district regarding these concerns.
The Hart district has a year-round maintenance schedule for all of its facilities, which district officials are working to make public, Pinsker said, adding the situation with Canyon High right now is a unique one.
The ryegrass planted typically looks as though its dead this time of year, Pinsker said, but more significantly, recent upgrades to the school’s football field has prompted excessive use of the softball field by groups such as the football and marching band programs, which aren’t usually on there.
The fact that the Hart district-owned field operates on a joint-use permit with the city — meaning other uses are allowed with a permit — does not mean there’s a lack of facility equity, Pinsker said.
While the city is allowed use of the field, maintenance of the facility is a Hart district responsibility, said Gail Morgan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita.
The complaint alleges the school is slow to respond to concerns unless they involve the football or baseball teams.
Any perceived inequity could also result from the fact that schools frequently have booster clubs and programs with the capability of improving facilities beyond the districtwide standards, she said.
While the district has a consistent standard for its fields, that wouldn’t preclude parents, alumni and community members from raising money on their own to support improvements.
“The safety of our students is the No. 1 priority,” Pinsker said, “but we do have standards that we keep our facilities at.”
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