Janesville85.8°

Female football player alleges discrimination

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GINA R. HEINE
November 1, 2007
— An Evansville mother and daughter are seeking $50,000 for pain, suffering, mental and emotional distress and expenses after the girl broke her clavicle in football practice.

Deborah St. Aubin-Elborough and daughter Ivyanne Elborough filed a notice of claim to Evansville School District Administrator Heidi Carvin, Athletics Director and high school Assistant Principal Brian Cashore and football coach Ron Grovesteen.


The notice protects the family’s right to sue under state law and provides the school district with 120 days before a state suit would be filed. The family also plans to file a federal lawsuit alleging the coaches discriminated against Ivyanne because she was female, said the family’s attorney, Andrea Farrell.


Ivyanne, a freshman, joined the high school football team this summer.


The notice, provided by the family’s attorney and the district, states:


“On Aug. 30, 2007, Football Coach Grovesteen of Evansville High School recklessly and with wanton disregard of Ivyanne Elborough’s safety instructed and allowed Ivyanne Elborough to participate in blocking drills without any safety gear during football practice where every other player was male and was wearing safety gear which resulted in severe injuries being inflicted upon Ivyanne Elborough including a broken clavicle.”


Carvin declined to address the specifics in the notice because of the pending litigation. She did say the district investigated the injury when it occurred, and the district did not believe there was negligence or discrimination.


Carvin said St. Aubin-Elborough shared her concerns with Carvin in early September, and the district investigated.


“We found that the facts were different than what (St. Aubin-Elborough) was presenting,” she said.


The family also alleges that the coaches discriminated against Ivyanne because she was female, and they are working on filing a federal discrimination case, Farrell said.


Farrell said the family alleges:


- The coaches would serve snacks only in the boys locker room, therefore not allowing Ivyanne to participate.


- Schedules were posted only in the boys locker room so Ivyanne couldn’t know the schedule.


- Ivyanne was made to cut her hair twice so she would have a boy’s haircut.


- Grovesteen would not provide Ivyanne with a key to the girls locker room, leaving her to “fend for herself” or find a janitor to access the girls locker room.


- Ivyanne never received a team T-shirt while all of the male players did.


The discrimination occurred from the start of the season until Aug. 30, when Ivyanne was injured, which prevented her from playing.


Grovesteen is in his 26th year as head football coach with a 197-71 record. He led the Blue Devils to Rock Valley titles in five of the last six years. The Blue Devils finished second in the conference this year, but they have advanced to Saturday’s third round of the WIAA playoffs.


In 2001, Grovesteen was inducted to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.


In February 2002, Grovesteen was suspended as junior varsity basketball coach while the district investigated a complaint against him. Two athletes had accused him of hitting another athlete during halftime of a basketball game.


The student who allegedly was hit said Grovesteen poked him, and the student did not file a complaint against Grovesteen.


The allegation was unfounded, but the coach was suspended because the school needed to investigate the allegation, which was serious, then-Superintendent Gary Albrecht said at the time.


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Case law has generally held that a school district must give a girl an opportunity to make a boys team if a comparable activity is not sponsored for girls, according to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.


According to the WIAA:

The growth of girls sports in Wisconsin coincided with the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational programs. Title IX gave impetus for the development of girls interscholastic sports and expanded opportunities in all educational programs and activities.


In what sports are girls or young women allowed to compete?


Girls are allowed to compete in any sport in which there is not a comparable athletic opportunity within the district. If a school has a girls basketball program, a girl cannot go out for the boys team. However, if there is a boys basketball team and not a girls team, any girl then could go out for the boys team. That is why you will see girls participating in boys hockey, wrestling and football.


If a girl participates in football, wrestling or hockey, are any rules altered?


With the exception of the weigh-in provisions for wrestling and some handicapping conditions in certain sports, there are to be no alterations in wrestling, hockey or football rules to accommodate any participant.


Does a girl have any additional physical examination requirements or parental waiver requirements if she wants to participate in wrestling, hockey or football?


The requirements for participation are the same for all eligible students. An additional medical documentation form or parental waiver cannot be required for a girl before her participation.



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