Complaint filed against St. James St.JamesHigh

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 11, 2002


VACHERIE – The St. James High School athletic department is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after a Title IX complaint was filed.

Title IX bans gender discrimination and unequal treatment of students and athletes in public schools or any programs using federal funds.

Locker rooms, training facilities and the equal availability of athletic programs for both boys and girls is also protected under Title IX.

The Office for Civil Rights did not say who filed the complaint.

Through the investigation, officials have been interviewing head coaches, students and teachers at St. James High and St. James School Board members.

The complaint was filed to the Department of Education in October of 2001 and has been under investigation since December. The complaint argues there is an unequal arrangement of equipment, supplies, locker rooms and practice, training and medical facilities supplied to the boys and girls.

“I don’t see any unequal treatment and as principal, I would not allow that,” urged St. James High Principal Josephine Allen Oubre. She said School Board Superintendent Dr. P. Edward Cancienne informed her of the complaint and investigation.

“The theory of Title IX is equivalency in effect,” said Cancienne. “They (OCR officials) will come in and look at the gym, uniforms, dressing and playing facilities. There will be a lot of in-depth investigation.”

“I don’t know why anyone brought this complaint. No one brought a complaint to me personally, or to any of the coaches of the athletic director,” she said.

She said the boys and girls have separate facilities for locker rooms to ensure no one violates any other player’s privacy, but share the same weight rooms. She also encouraged the number of sports for boys and girls are equal and the players have no restrictions, such as if a girl wanted to play football or if a boy wanted to play volleyball.

“We try to do everything possible to promote both sexes in all sports,” Allen Oubre continued. “That’s why we worked very hard for a softball team. We don’t want our students, parents or community to feel unequal access has been given to either girls or boys in athletics.”

If the investigation finds inequalities in such areas as facilities, new areas may need to be set aside or even built to be in compliance. Otherwise, OCR has the authority to withhold funding. Allen Oubre said money would be an issue in such a scenario, “But we will do whatever we have to for equality.”

“We will make every effort to resolve this issue,” said Cancienne. “This will not go into litigation.”