District 11 calls for coed wrestling in middle school
Shakes says lack of public process was OK
In an administrative decision, Colorado Springs School District 11 for the first time has given middle school girls the option of
joining boys wrestling teams.
The announcement was made over loudspeakers at the two Westside middle schools (Holmes and West) Oct. 5. One girl has already signed up at Holmes and practiced with the team Wednesday, Oct. 6.
Some interest has been expressed at West, Principal Joe Torres said Oct. 6, although he did not yet know of any signups.
Public meetings did not precede the action. The decision was initiated by Sue Shepherd, assistant athletic director for District 11, whose job includes overseeing middle school athletics. She told the Westside Pioneer that the summer Olympic Games, in which Americans competed in the women's wrestling competition, “probably sparked some interest” because she received one call and one e-mail from parents asking whether the district would be offering wrestling for girls. Also, she said, she got “inquiries from some coaches at the middle school level.”
As a result, she said she contacted the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), which governs statewide high school and middle school intermural athletics. She said CHSAA representatives told her that in keeping with Title 9 (the federal law ensuring women's equality in sports participation), girls should be allowed to compete in boys' wrestling at the middle school level. This is in keeping with previous legal rulings that have said it's OK for girls to compete in boys sports, Shepherd said. “I want to do the right thing,” she said.
Boys, however, cannot compete in girls sports. The reason, according to Shepherd, is that the courts have decided that a boy competing in a girls' sport, such as volleyball, “changes the course of the sport,” whereas a girl in a boys sport does not have this impact.
Board of Education President Sandra Shakes said the school board was not asked for input on the matter, but she does she not believe it was needed. “If it's an issue of compliance with Title 9, and our administrators researched it, I trust their decision,” she said.
No girls-only wrestling program is being contemplated for district middle schools. “At this point, it's not an option,” Shepherd said.
Previously, District 11 only allowed coed wrestling at the high school level. Shepherd said the Widefield School District has been allowing coed wrestling in its middle schools.
Shepherd, Torres and Shakes were each asked if they thought there was a moral issue involved, considering the ages of the children and other school rules governing physical contact. None believed this was relevant.
“There hasn't been a problem with that (in other programs),” Shepherd said. She added that if any problems did arise, coaches would be expected to respond as needed.
“I have seen other parts of the country where middle school boys and girls wrestle,” Torres said. “I don't have any real concerns. We have quality coaches, who will treat the girls fairly and teach them the sport.”
At Holmes, there reportedly were complaints from the boy wrestlers when the girl appeared at practice, but nothing overt, and when the wrestling coach told a boy to wrestle with her, he complied. Efforts to contact the coach or a school administrator at Holmes Oct. 6 were unsuccessful.
Westside Pioneer article