The Real Enforcers of Gender Equity in Sports: Angry Parents
A decade ago, Ginger Folger’s son, John, played high school football in Gainesville, Ga., their hometown, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.
“The financial resources of the football team were astounding,” said Folger, who marveled at the collegiate-level facilities, equipment, provided apparel and training services.
Several years later, Folger’s daughter Isabella joined the Gainesville High School softball team. Folger was thunderstruck when she went to the team’s first practice.
“Our softball field was horrible; a girl broke her ankle stepping in one of the many holes in the outfield,” she said. “We didn’t have protective barriers in front of the dugouts, the foul lines were washed out and the grass was nonexistent in some parts. Meanwhile, the boys’ baseball field had a beautiful press box, fantastic dugouts and a $10,000 pitching machine.”
Folger complained to Gainesville school district officials, but when improvements were not made, she did something numerous aggrieved parents throughout the United States have been doing for more than 20 years. Spurred by the protection offered by the 1972 legislation known as Title IX, she filed a federal lawsuit that accused the school district of discriminating against the girls who played high school softball.
The lawsuit ended with a common resolution: The Gainesville school district settled by spending about $750,000 to upgrade the softball facility, while also paying for Folger’s attorney fees, according to a district spokeswoman.