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KCSD responds to Title IX allegations

Posted: August 19, 2011 5:18 p.m.
Updated: August 22, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Three months ago, Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) parents Mike and Marti Gogan sent an email to Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, expressing concern that the school district was in violation of Title IX federal funding regulations.

Alleging that “vastly different” resources, equipment, and benefits were provided to the high school’s male versus female athletes, the Gogans asked Morgan to investigate what they felt were “wrongdoings” in the L-EHS athletic department.

In a letter mailed Thursday to the Gogans, Morgan said he conducted a system-wide review of their complaints and does not agree with the assertion that there is a “blatant disregard for Title IX” at L-EHS. Regarding their concerns about misuse of funds, Morgan also added that the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office independently looked into the issue and found no misconduct.

“I have a lot of respect for the Gogans, and I appreciate that they took time to voice their concerns,” Morgan said Friday afternoon, “but to assert that there is a blatant disregard for Title IX at L-EHS is simply unfounded.”

In response to speculation that new cheerleading uniforms had not been purchased in the past decade, Morgan said the ABLE Club purchased new cheerleading uniforms this year, which were recently worn by the squad.

“Please know that I am concerned about your repeated public complaint that the L-EHS cheer uniforms are ‘ten years old.’ That is incorrect. District records reflect that new varsity cheer uniforms were purchased in 2005 for use for both competitive cheer and spirit squad/sideline cheer, and junior varsity uniforms were purchased in 2007,” Morgan said in the letter.

In response to the parents’ complaint about disproportionate participation in athletics between male and female students, Morgan said the skew in numbers could mostly be attributed to football, as the sport alone had 119 participants in 2010.

Furthermore, Morgan said, girls junior varsity soccer and tennis teams were added at the high school in 2008, and, based on previous interest surveys – which were discontinued during the past two years as he felt there was little possibility of adding extracurricular programs due to budget cuts -- the L-EHS girls sport most likely to be added next would be swimming.

“At this point, given the possible construction of a YMCA in Camden, adding a full girls swim team would become feasible from a facilities and logistics standpoint,” Morgan said in the letter. “If interest surveys reflect continued interest by girls in swimming, I would recommend to the School Board that the sport be added.”

Also, in their complaint, the Gogans said they felt as if resources and luxury items were repeatedly purchased for the “golden teams” of L-EHS, specifically citing $45,000 worth of checks withdrawn from the school’s football team account and $3,000 spent on embroidering the names of players who attended summer practices on the back of football jerseys.

However, Morgan said the $3,000 spent was used to purchase coaching clothes, camp T-shirts, “and other such items.” The cost to have the names of players printed on the back of their uniforms was $5 per player.

Regarding the $45,000 worth of expenditures, Morgan said maintaining athletic programs has become more contingent on fundraising and revenue-producing sports, in light of recent budget cuts.

“In order to keep as many boys and girls sports going as possible, funds raised through football gate receipts … are used to support the entire athletic program at all three high schools,” he said.

Of the $45,000 withdrawn, Morgan said $17,000 to $20,000 were used to support costs related to football equipment, while the remaining $22,000 were used for management of boys and girls playing fields, gasoline for all sports, rental of temporary lights for boys and girls soccer games, South Carolina High School League dues, equipment for weight rooms, Coaches Association dues, and to help defray the cost of purchasing championship rings for the wrestling and baseball teams.

Morgan also said that the ABLE Club has provided $18,411 more in funds to female sports than male sports since 2004.

“Your written complaint strongly implies that resources have been taken from cheerleading and other female sports to support male sports. This is just not true,” he said. “In fact, as reflected above and in other parts of this letter, just the opposite has occurred.”

Also, in response to a complaint about drainage and flood problems on the school’s softball field, Morgan said the field was laser-leveled in 2007 and the softball facility has been upgraded during the past 10 years.

“The flooding referenced in your letter was a one-time situation caused by the irrigation system being left on all day coupled with heavy rain. Some low spots on the infield identified this past spring are being repaired,” he said in the letter, adding that he believed that the softball field is superior to the baseball field. “This is normal maintenance for any field.”

In the future, Morgan said he will make the following recommendations to the school board: reinstating the annual extracurricular interest survey in November to suggest new girls high school athletic programs for consideration by the school board; developing an initiative to restore all athletic coaching stipends, and address increasing stipends in hard-to-fill coaching positions; reinstate Assistant Activities Directors with the primary focus being on increasing the number of participants in girls sports; advertising all coaching positions on the South Carolina High School League website and other applicable websites; adjusting accounting procedures to clearly delineate how revenue sports are supporting non-revenue sports; submitting an annual report to school board members of expenditures/revenues and student participation rates for all sports; and examining the feasibility of having a student group take on responsibilities for their school’s athletic websites.

“This response represents hundreds of hours of work,” Morgan said. “Like I said, I have a lot of respect for the Gogans, but when you look at the whole picture, which we did in great depth, and say that there is a blatant disregard for Title IX at L-EHS, that does not stand up to scrutiny.”

On Friday afternoon, Mike Gogan said that given the fact that the investigation was handled internally, he “expected nothing less from them” and will continue to stand by their original complaint. He also expressed concern that the incident report filed with the sheriff’s office was handled by a relative of a school board member.

The Gogans complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, which was filed last month, is still pending.


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