Federal officials closed a Title IX gender discrimination complaint against the Canyon High softball field, after learning Hart district officials identified 10 improvements that “substantially coincide” with items raised in the complaint.
William S. Hart Union High School District officials either completed or anticipate the completion of nine of those 10 changes being made by the state of the spring 2015 season, according to a letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
District officials did not immediately release the changes, citing an ongoing lawsuit over the softball field.
The complaint cited discrepancies between the quality of the baseball field the boys play on in contrast to the softball fields.
A lawsuit filed Jan. 3 alleges the Hart district is responsible for a “failure to guard against a dangerous condition,” which led to a Golden Valley High softball player sustaining a concussion on Canyon’s home field.
The player was attempting to catch a fly ball when “she slipped on a concrete gutter drain,” during an April 9, 2013, game at Canyon High, which plays home games at North Oaks Park.
The player hit her head on the drain in the fall and suffered a concussion, according to the lawsuit.
The Title IX complaint was filed in June of this year.
One of the issues cited in the Title IX complaint was an aging equipment shed with holes that allowed rats to crawl around near the team’s gear.
Canyon High softball head coach Tim Melton expressed concern about the equipment shed, but it was brought to the district staff and district officials began the process for acquiring a new shed.
There’s also been past concerns about a waist-high collapsible mesh fence lining the outfield, which has, in the past, led to players frequently trip over the barrier in pursuit of long drives. There are also gopher holes in the dirt-covered outfield that caused an incoming freshman to hurt her ankle last year, he said.
The complaint also cited the lack of a proper irrigation system, leaving the outfield a dirt patch where grass should be.
The Hart district has a year-round maintenance schedule for all of its facilities, which district officials are working to make public, according to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker, in response to the initial complaint. The situation with Canyon High was a unique one, she added.
The ryegrass planted typically looks as though its dead this time of year, Pinsker said, but more significantly, recent upgrades to the school’s football field has prompted excessive use of the softball field by groups such as the football and marching band programs, which aren’t usually on there.
The fact that the Hart district-owned field operates on a joint-use permit with the city — meaning other uses are allowed with a permit — does not mean there’s a lack of facility equity, Pinsker said.
While the city is allowed use of the field, maintenance of the facility is a Hart district responsibility, said Gail Morgan, spokeswoman for the city of Santa Clarita.