By Stephen Mayer, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
The state of Missouri is being asked to demand that Kansas City allow girls to practice on ball fields where boys now have exclusive access.
"Girls should have equal access to these parks," said Matthew Scanlon, who coaches his daughter's softball team.
About 50 years ago, Kansas City's Parks and Recreation Department signed a contract with 3&2 Baseball Club. This gives its boy teams exclusive access to Kansas City fields in the Waldo and Brookside areas.
But it's not fair, Scanlon and the Kansas City chapter of the ACLU contend. The civil liberties group has filed a complaint with the state of Missouri's Human Rights Commission. This is a precursor to filing a lawsuit.
The hope is to force Kansas City to change its police without having to go to court.
Because of the threat of litigation, city and parks officials refused to comment.
Scanlon tried to get permits for his daughter's softball team to play on the fields under contract. Citing the contract, city officials would allow just one field in one park for one day. And that would be for games, not practice. And the field has no parking and is small, ACLU officials said.
"Being a father of daughters, it's frustrating," Scanlon said. "Being a coach, it's extra frustrating trying to get girls to play softball in these neighborhoods."
The 3&2 baseball teams have exclusive access to south Kansas City fields from April 5 through July 31. The ACLU contends the city's own permit policy gives access just for 12 weeks, not 17 as allowed by the contract.
The fields affected by the contract are Sunny Side, Tower, South Oak, Brookside, Westwood and Holmes parks.
Scanlon coaches four girls softball teams. He began trying to get permits in January. He wanted to hold practice after 4:30 p.m. because the coaches' jobs prevent them from practicing earlier.
"Meaningful participation in sports provides girls with significant physical, psychological and social benefits," the ACLU said in a news release. "Exercise reduces the risk of health problems such as obesity, heart disease, stress and depression. Girls who participate in sports have increased self esteem and confidence, which aids them in schools. Girls who play sports have higher grades and a higher level of participation in leadership and after-school activities. The lack of options for girls who wish to play softball in the city has a detrimental effect on many aspects of the girls' lives."
The ACLU says because of 3&2's exclusive contract that girls sports have been stifled in south Kansas City. There are no organized leagues for girls after the fourth grade. Girls either quit the game or have to travel outside Kansas City in order to practice and participate in leagues.
The ACLU believes the city is violating both state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
"The ACLU's goal is to help the city's female athletes gain a level playing field," according to the news release.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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