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Judge: PIAA can ban boys on girls’ sports teams; new court ruling isn’t needed

August 28, 2013
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By The Associated Press
on August 28, 2013

A state judge has declined to intervene in the growing issue of boys playing sports traditionally reserved for girls, saying a previous court ruling does not necessarily prohibit the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association from banning the practice.

Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson on Tuesday turned down a request by the PIAA to modify a landmark 1975 state court ruling that required schools to let girls play on boys’ teams.

“If PIAA, as the primary policymaking body for interscholastic competition in the Commonwealth, believes it is appropriate to take action in this area, then it should take the first step into the breach and create a policy,” Brobson wrote. “Only then, if that policy is challenged in a court of law, may its constitutionality be evaluated.”

A lawyer for the PIAA, which has about 1,400 member schools and some 350,000 student participants, said the organization’s board would likely put the topic on its October meeting agenda. If a new policy is adopted, it would not take effect for at least a year.

The PIAA has said in court filings that the increasing numbers of boys on girls’ teams has skewed the competitive balance and raised safety issues.

PIAA general counsel Alan Boynton said the organization was “pretty satisfied” with Brobson’s ruling. “It wasn’t everything we wanted, but it gives the PIAA the option of doing what it thinks is appropriate,” he said.

Boynton said some schools do ban boys on girls’ teams, while others do not. He said member schools have been pressuring the PIAA to address the problem.

A Pittsburgh couple, lawyers Mary and James Grenen, sought to have the 1975 case re-opened last year after seeing what occurred in the high school field hockey games involving their daughters. Field hockey and volleyball are seeing the most boys competing on girls’ teams, but it has also occurred in swimming, soccer and tennis.

The Grenens wrote in a May filing that the increasing numbers of boys on girls’ teams have made a mockery of some high school sports.

“The presence of boys competing on all girls teams has caused other students to show up as spectators and mockingly cheer them on — thus rendering the entire game a joke — except that it is not a joke to the girl who is sitting on the bench, not playing, not getting a varsity letter, or whose team is losing because of the boys playing on the opposing team,” they wrote.

The PIAA has said in court filings that the increasing numbers of boys on girls’ teams has skewed the competitive balance and raised safety issues.

The organization said boys tended to outperform girls as a class in competitive sports. As an example, it cited last year’s state cross-country championship, where 505 of the 674 boys finished before the first of 663 girls.

A survey conducted earlier this year, to which about half the PIAA schools responded, indicated about three in five allow boys to play on girls’ teams. Thirty-eight schools said boys had played field hockey, and they reported 13 injuries.

Fourteen schools said boys played girls’ volleyball, eight said boys played girls’ lacrosse, five said boys played girls’ soccer, one had a boy on the girls’ swim team and one on the girls’ tennis team.


Alan R. Boynton Jr.