Apr 26, 2012, 11:12 AM EDT
An attorney hired by the family of 13-year-old Keeling Pilaro says that he is confident that a decision to ban the boy from an all-girls high school field hockey league will be overturned by the time play begins in the fall. Pilaro, an eighth grader, has been a standout player for the South Hampton (N.Y.) High field hockey team since he was 11 years old, and this past season was the only boy in the league. At 4-foot-8, 82 pounds, he’s not exactly imposing — in fact he’s the smallest player on the South Hampton team.
But a mixed-competition committee of Section 11, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school sports, have ruled that he can’t play next season. Official reason? He’s just too good — and that could have an “adverse effect” on the girls in the league.
Pilaro showed “superior stick play in comparison to the great majority of those girls against whom he was competing,” according to a letter after the hearing from Section XI Appeals Committee chairman James Wright. Pilaro learned to play the game when his family lived in Ireland, where field hockey is popular with both boys and girls.
The league also turned down an appeal.
“He is a talented field hockey player and what the committee has to look at is do we think this is adverse affect on the young ladies and the committee felt that it was,” said Section XI official Edward Cinelli.
But now some are questioning whether the ruling is actually violating Title IX, the federal law instituted in 1972 that states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
That has since been amended in several states, among them New York, to include schools not receiving Federal funding.
“If he’s not allowed to try out for the team, that opens up the door for all kinds of discrimination,” said Dana Edell, the executive director of SPARK movement, a girls activist organization.
Asked if he was afraid of being teased for being the only boy on a girls field hockey team, Pilaro said “I don’t care, as long as I get to play a sport I love.”
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