Girls ask for Highland varsity lacrosse team

(Illustration by Rick Holland)

Coaches, parents and students gathered at Highland High School last week to ask for a little gender equity — at least when it comes to lacrosse.

Right now, girls from Highland have the opportunity to play lacrosse up until they get to high school on a town-sponsored team. But once they graduate to Highland High School, their sport of choice stays behind.

Surprisingly, perhaps the most impassioned plea to start the program came from eighth-grader Abigail Munson. She told the Board of Education that she’d only started playing lacrosse last year, and she “loved the sport instantly.”

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“I want to start by saying ‘happy birthday.’ This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Educational Amendment of 1972, which includes Title IX,” the middle schooler said. “Title IX states that no person, on the basis of sex, be denied the benefits of an educational program or activity. This has been interpreted in recent years to include sports programs.”

Munson said she felt the school board had a duty to make sure girls got to play — high school boys already have a varsity lacrosse team.

“I know there’s adequate interest and ability in a girls’ lacrosse team,” she added. “The boys in our district have had the privilege of playing lacrosse for six years now. We’d like a chance too.”

At least 12 girls — all decked out in their blue jerseys — sat in the audience as the school board members heard their case. Their coach, Kim Caso, also spoke on their behalf. She noted that a number of girls had aged out of the town feeder team, which has players from fifth to eighth grades.

“All those girls are still here. So this year, without even opening up a registration, we’ve got 19 girls who’ve already committed to playing varsity lacrosse,” Caso said. “I know that it’s not put in the budget for this year … What we’d like to do is raise the money ourselves.”

Those lacrosse girls will need $10,000 to pay for the team. Parents and the kids hope to raise all of that money by December in a concerted fundraising effort. However, to make things official, they’d still need the Board of Education to approve the measure.

Al Barone, the school board president, seemed open to the idea. He promised to put girls’ lacrosse on a meeting agenda soon.

“When the boys came forward several years ago, my vision for that program was for it to grow,” he said. “I think it has grown. I was hoping it’d grow into a J.V. program to feed the varsity program. That’s what I’d be looking for, to start, with the girls.”

The board president also said he wanted to make sure that the girls hadn’t missed any important sign-up deadline to get on the Section 9 league roster. If that happened, a potential Highland girls’ lacrosse team wouldn’t be allowed to play in official matches — but they could play pick-up games and scrimmages.

“What is the expectation of the group beyond this year? Clearly, you’re committed to fundraising to start that up,” school board member Mike Bakatsias said. “Are you open to committing to fundraising to fund the program for more than a year? Or are you expecting that the district would then incorporate that cost?”

Parents said they’d ultimately like the district to pick up the cost of running the team. However, they haven’t ruled out fundraising next year.

Earlier this month, Highland approved a measure to merge its varsity boys’ lacrosse team with Marlboro High School. Players from both schools would have to try out for the combined team, but the districts would split the $12,000 evenly. Those fundraising for the girls’ team also seemed open to a merged team.

Readers who’d like to donate to help the girls get a team can send checks to Highland Lacrosse Booster Club, 500 Route 299, Suite 100, Highland, NY 12528. Make the checks out to the Highland Lacrosse Booster Club.

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