By Timothy Cox
COLDWATER -- A U.S. Department of Education official will visit Coldwater Exempted Village Schools early this school year as part of its ongoing investigation into whether district officials discriminated against female athletes when the high school gymnastics program was dropped.
A civil rights complaint was filed last month under Title IX, the 1972 federal anti-discrimination policy that applies to all federally funded education entities. Its aim is to ensure equal educational and extracurricular opportunities for men and women.
The representative from the education department's civil rights office will visit the school after classes resume late next month, Superintendent Rich Seas told school board members who met this week. The investigator will speak with district administrators and the head coaches of all the district's athletic programs.
A few students will be randomly questioned regarding the district's sports programs, Seas said.
School district officials already have turned over numerous documents sought by the education department. Those materials included all policies, procedures about how the district adds or drops sports programs, records of all such additions and deletions from the program during the past 10 years, a breakdown of all sports and teams by sport, gender and competitive level and copies of any questionnaires that have been given to students to gauge their interest in certain sports. The district also provided the number of students involved in every sport and schedules for those teams and documentation of the reason for dropping gymnastics. District officials have denied the discrimination claims. They point to numerous public discussions about the issue and that the program was dropped due to the lack of local opponents for the gymnastics team to compete against. The two closest rival schools dropped their gymnastics programs a year earlier.
High school Principal Steve Keller recommended the program be discontinued due to the excessive travel and Superintendent Rich Seas concurred. School board members supported the administrators' decision but never voted on the issue.