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Bennington families push district to even boys and girls sports

Dozens show up in support.
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 12:49 AM CST
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BENNINGTON, Neb. (WOWT) - Families in Bennington Public Schools made their latest collective push to get the district to correct what they call Title IX violations.

6 News broke the story last month when three families filed a federal lawsuit about their daughters’ experiences on the basketball and softball teams.

The district didn’t say much Monday night, but a couple parents and a former student did. Other supporters said before the meeting that this is an issue Bennington has buried for decades.

“To say this is a new problem is wrong,” 2011 graduate Katy Vitale said. “It’s been swept under a rug.”

Parents and students applauded after each public comment.

Years ago when Katy Vitale was a student at Bennington, she told the district about inequalities her friends faced. Ten years later, she and hundreds of others across town support students on this year’s softball team.

“I think it feels great as a softball player,” student Morgan Dreessen said. “We haven’t got support the past few years, when my sister was playing, and it feels great to have people notice us and want to help our program.”

The girls want the district to give them the same support.

More than 300 Title IX t-shirts were sold by softball parents including Jeremy Dick.

“Sadly, the only way to address this was Title IX,” Dick said. “And this isn’t just three families.”

Parents who filed the suit say Monday night was their final collective push to convince the school board to correct years of discrimination. Board members didn’t say much Monday night.

“We do have the power to make an even more hopeful future for our students,” board president Dr. Valerie Calderon said.

Supporters are quick to describe the softball team’s field as outdated, while the boys play at a superior stadium blocks away. On the basketball court, they claim girls get knock-off equipment while boys get name-brand.

“Our field compared to all the other fields is a lot different,” student Hailli Verco said. “We need more additions.”

The lawsuit isn’t seeking money. It wants the district to admit wrongdoing and even the playing field.

If the district plan to do so, they haven’t made it public.

Parents who filed the lawsuit declined to talk on camera tonight. They say their legal team is waiting for the school district to respond to the lawsuit. One of the mothers who filed the lawsuit says some supporters plan to continue attending Bennington board of education meetings.

Bennington’s superintendent says the district tries to provide opportunities for all students, including facilities.

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