Members and supporters of local girls ice hockey players caused quite a stir earlier this month, when they turned out to the Superintendent of School’s budget presentation to ask for financial support from the School District.
Members of the girls ice hockey co-op team, The Blades — a squad that includes players from multiple neighboring towns — asked the Board to fund their team. Supporters also suggested that, by not offering a girls’ ice hockey team through Cheshire High School while supporting a boys’ team, the District could possibly be in violation of Title IX, a suggestion that set the BOE and Superintendent’s office on a fact finding mission to determine if that were the case.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Board of Education met to discuss Superintendent Jeff Solan’s budget recommendation, at which time the District’s Athletic Department presented their own budget overview while also providing its conclusions about the possible violations.
“The good news is that we're in compliance,” said BOE Chair Tony Perugini.
According to the presentation, in “three of the past five years, female participation (in all sports) has exceeded male participation relative to enrollment,” and in order to stay in compliance with Title IX, CPS needs to continue to “monitor enrollment and participation percentages to determine if this fluctuation becomes a trend.”
Natale DiNatale, a lawyer and ice hockey parent who originally suggested Cheshire may have a Title IX violation on their hands, clarified his complaint.
“Title IX is a very complicated law,” he said. “We were never claiming that they had violated it, we just wanted to bring attention to the fact that there might be a problem. Our real complaint here is about gender equality”.
DiNatale credited the District for taking the issue into consideration so quickly.
“I want to applaud Superindendent Solan on his Title IX analysis,” he added. “We just really need to catch up with the times.”
As far as the District funding a girls’ team, Perugini explained that the Athletic Department presented an option for the coming fiscal year.
“… It appears that, after some discussion with the Athletic Director and administration, they recommend adding $6,200 to the 2020-2021 budget request to fund four girls ice hockey participants,” he said.
The move would not establish a new team at the high school but would instead support players participating on the co-op team. Currently, there are six Cheshire athletes on The Blades’ roster.
If more interest is shown regarding participation in girls’ ice hockey, Cheshire High School Athletic Director Steve Trifone explained that the arrangement could easily be revisited.
“This certainly isn’t locked in stone,” noted Trifone. “I am not currently aware of 25 girls who want to all sign up for ice hockey, but if there are more girls who want to sign up we would have to reevaluate this number.”
The addition of the $6,200 would allow the four girls who decide to play on the co-op team to pay the same participation fee as do current members of the boys’ CHS hockey team— approximately $250 — instead of the $1,200 they currently pay.
The co-op would still include athletes from Amity and North Haven, just with the additional funding and support from the CHS Athletic Department for the local girls.
“I think the girls really enjoy the co-op,” said Trifone. “The funds just allow for them to pay the same rate [as the boys], it doesn’t dissolve the co-op.
The District also suggested that The Blades could be included in the CHS yearbook and the players could be allowed to earn a varsity letter as well as attend other athletic-related functions throughout the academic year, all which would be new for the players..
“Personally, I believe they made a great case to be funded as a club sport and hopefully over time there's enough interest to fund a full team,” added Perugini. “I hope that if this request is accepted, it will allow more participants to play given the cheaper fee.”