10/28 03:28 CDT Girl's football hopes sacked by rules on competing with boys
Girl's football hopes sacked by rules on competing with boys
By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) --- Alison Rogers raced across the field, a touchdown-saving
tackle in her line of sight.
It was her favorite moment of the season she spent playing middle school
football. Rogers, a cornerback from Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New
York, brought a boy to the ground and a crowd to its feet.
"All of the parents went insane," she said.
Now Alison can't get on the field at all.
The issue isn't her ability to compete with boys. It's whether she should be
New York State rules governing mixed gender competition require an extra
physical fitness performance test for girls, clear in their intent but not in
their application. Alison, 13, declined to repeat it this year and has been
prevented from rejoining her teammates.
The dispute has highlighted an unusual tension between bureaucratic rules
designed to protect students while giving girls the chance to play
traditionally male-dominated sports.
"The school and the coaches know who I am. They knew who I was in seventh
grade, they know that I'm athletic," she said. "It just seems unfair that I
should ever have to take any of these tests, that any girl should have to take
any of these tests."
It's not entirely clear whether she does.
Her school may be following the Commissioner of Education's regulations to the
letter, or may be protecting her more than necessary.
"I think no one wants to be the one that is actually saying the girl can't
play, but everyone's kind of agreeing that she can't," said Brett Rogers,
He doesn't blame Fieldston, believing the school enjoyed having Alison on the
team last season and would've liked her to play again.
"Alison shows as much promise as any other middle school football player,"
athletic director Gus Ornstein said. "We would love to have her on the team
again this year. We understand her desire to challenge this rule and fully
support her efforts."
State officials did not comment about the reasons behind the rule, but
according to the Commissioner's guidelines, "The purpose of the regulation is
to preserve the health and safety of students while assuring that students of
both sexes have opportunity to participate successfully in interschool
It adds: "When the physical abilities of the individual are deemed by the panel
to be short of or exceed the physical abilities of other team members, thereby
creating a hazardous condition or unfair advantage for that student or other
members of the team, denial of participation would be appropriate."
Alison is a black belt in taekwondo and participates in roller derby, so her
parents were neither surprised nor concerned when she said she wanted to play
"Right up her alley," said her mother, Christine.
First, Alison had to submit to a review by a panel that includes the school
physician and a physical education teacher, and potentially a physician, which
evaluates her health records. The fitness test includes a mile run, pull-ups,
push-ups and a shuttle run. To pass, a student must be in the 50th percentile
of the President's Council Fitness test.
Once approved by the panel, the student is free to try out. Fieldston has a
no-cut policy for its middle school football team, so Alison was placed on the
squad and spent the season as a backup cornerback and running back, getting
into most of the games.
But she balked when her coach told her that if she planned to play again, she'd
need to go through the whole process a second time. The panel's decision
applies only to that specific sport and season, and another review is required
the following season.
However, the guidelines do not stipulate that the fitness test has to be
repeated. The panel could evaluate previous scores, for example --- though
Ornstein said he inquired to the state and was told all parts of the process
The Rogers family says they lobbied school and state officials for answers, and
found portions of the rulebook online but were rebuffed in their attempts to
get a copy to study themselves. They tried to contest the rule and sought to
appeal, but never figured out where to take the fight.
"I don't think that they're trying to prevent girls," Christine Rogers said. "I
think they have a procedure that's not clear and they have no interest in
making it clear and no interest in it being challenged, so they're making it
very difficult for us to even challenge it."
Though Fieldston is a private school, its conference follows the public school
rules so its members can schedule games against those teams, so Alison's
parents understand the school's caution.
But there is frustration that a girl who played on a team has to prove her
fitness to do it again just because of her gender, while a younger boy who has
never even played the sport before could suit up just by passing a routine
"I think to say that since you're a girl you still have to take a test,
regardless whether you're good enough or not, because we have to make sure
you're fit enough," Alison said, "that just doesn't make sense."
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