Coaches accuse Hayward USD of discriminating against girl athletes, claim repair work favors boys teams

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- Coaches at Tennyson High School in Hayward are accusing the school district of discriminating against girls in sports, because of their gender and race.

Coaches Gabriel Hernandez and Steve Giggs maintain that fields mostly used by girls are unsafe and unkempt compared to those used by boys. So, they're taking their issue to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

After the United States Women's National Soccer Team win, women's sports remains on the international stage. High school Coaches Hernandez and Giggs say now is a better time than any to step up and take action against what they say is sex discrimination within Tennyson High School sports.

"If they can look up to those women asking just for parity, just to be treated the same, then it's on," Hernandez said. "Let's do it!"

Hernandez has coached boys' varsity soccer at Tennyson for more than a decade. He's leading the push for parity.

At a Tuesday press conference at Tennyson High in Hayward, coaches explained that fields mostly used by girls see activity both on and off-season.

During the softball season, between February and May, girls take the field six days a week. In the off-season, open-field practice is scheduled three days a week.

Coaches, parents and young athletes claim poor field conditions make any activity tough. They're convinced the issue is gender-based.

"It doesn't make sense," 10-year-old Ashley Sinn told reporters. "Because boys are definitely not better than girls. But still, we are not better than them. We're all equal people."

Ashley uses the Tennyson High fields during the summer. She was one of many student-athletes to speak out about conditions.

"We're just left in the dust," she said about girl athletes. "When they're going up the mountain, we're staying down."

In a statement to ABC7 News, Hayward Unified School District insists it used voter-approved funds to renovate spaces used by all athletes, across several sports.

The statement read in part: "The 2014 Measure L bond included plans to renovate some athletic fields and facilities at all three of our high schools. We made it a priority to renovate spaces used by both female and male athletes. The renovations included the football/soccer field, the snack bar, locker rooms, and the track. These spaces are used by sports teams, the cheer squad, and the student band."

Still, coaches refiled a Title IX complaint, claiming sex discrimination against girls. They also filed a second complaint on National Origin, claiming unfair treatment of girls based on their race and ethnicity.

Coach Hernandez said he first filed a Title IX complaint against the school district in 2018, which he thought was resolved in February 2019.

In a separate statement by Hayward USD, the district said in part:

"While no evidence of inequitable treatment of sports teams was presented to the district, we previously voluntarily agreed to complete repairs and improvements to our facilities at Tennyson High School. This non-binding agreement facilitated by the Office of Civil Rights was entered into for the purpose of resolving a pending complaint and to better serve our students."

"Well then, why waste our time if you're not going to negotiate an agreement in good faith," Coach Hernandez said about the 'non-binding agreement.' "Then don't come to the table."

When asked about the disparity, the girls mainly spoke about poor conditions on the field.

"When I look at the baseball field, I see it's all nice," 11-year-old athlete, Roxanne Alfaro said. "And the softball field, there's cracks in it."

Tennyson High incoming Junior, Kayla Birdsell said, "It's just... It's really dry."

Athletes explained another issue is the lack of access to school facilities during the season. Coaches said without proper female adult supervision after school, girls aren't able to use the locker room for safety reasons.

This policy makes for a packed bathroom at the end of the school day.

"We're kind of restricted after school since we can't use the locker rooms," Tennyson High graduate and former softball player, Nickole Barron told reporters. "Everyone's packed into the bathrooms, especially with all the other girls who aren't players."

Coaches question why money from two separate bond measures isn't being used to better fields mostly used by girls.

The district addressed the question in their statement to ABC7 News:

"Neither the softball field nor the baseball field at Tennyson (or at the other high schools) were included as part of the project list on either bond measure, but we continue to make improvements and upgrades to all of our facilities. Our commitment is to student safety at all of our school sites regardless of ethnicity or gender."

Safety remains the biggest concern.

Varsity softball coach Griggs told reporters, "We have players chased across the back lawn by homeless people, and they have to hop fences to get away from them."

Parent, Jeff Sinn added, "Playing out on the field, running around in the grass to catch a pop fly and having to watch yourself just because there's a big old crack or a pothole- it's not fair to these girls."

The district said an audit by the California Department of Education found the district and its facilities in compliance with Title IX.
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