Complaint filed against the Hart school district

Times Staff Writer

The Office for Civil Rights from the U.S. Department of Education has begun an investigation of the William S. Hart Union High District following a complaint by a parent alleging that the district is discriminating against students on the basis of sex and disability within its sports programs.

The complaint, filed in December and obtained by The Times, alleges that the district has failed to provide "benefits, opportunities and services to female athletes that are equivalent to those provided to male athletes" at Saugus, Newhall Hart and Canyon Country Canyon in regard to softball facilities and locker rooms while also alleging that Saugus' softball field is inaccessible to students with disabilities.

The complaint alleges that "softball fields are inferior to boys' facilities," with money spent by the district for improvement focused on boys' facilities, such as upgrades for the football fields at Canyon, Hart, Saugus and Valencia.

Saugus hasn't been able to use its softball field for three years because of a school modernization project and only recently began to make repairs to its existing facility. Hart has been playing its games at an off-campus park because there is no on-campus facility. Canyon's softball field is shared with freshman football players. Meanwhile, each schools' baseball fields are considered high-quality facilities.

Principals for the three schools met three weeks ago to discuss a response. The district asked for and received an extension until Feb. 11 to respond to the investigation.

"We don't believe there is a problem," said Rob Gapper, chief operations officer for the district.

Saugus Principal Bill Bolde said Monday the school has begun extensive work on its softball field, adding new bleachers, a new backstop, a new outfield fence, a new scoreboard, refurbished dugouts and changed a dirt trail to asphalt to help with access.

Jim Torp, a Saugus parent who did not file the complaint but has a son with cerebral palsy, said the asphalt trail has no handrails, is too steep and is unsafe for wheelchairs.

The Region IX Office for Civil Rights based in San Francisco is handling the complaint with the authority to request appropriate action be taken if noncompliance is found.

The Office for Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing sections of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 over complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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