Attention attracted by gymnast's request puzzling
The following editorial that was published in the Dec. 10 WIAA Bulletin contains a reference to Tomahawk. Its focus is on a male Stevens Point Area Senior High School junior who's fighting to compete on his school's girls' gymnastics team. Keith Michael Bukowski and his mother, Janine, have filed a complaint in circuit court against the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) for refusing to let the boy compete with his female peers. We're wondering what you think?
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The WIAA's denial of a recent request to allow a boy gymnast to compete on the Stevens Point Area Senior High girls' gymnastics team this season has received statewide media attention over the past couple of weeks and may possibly draw national attention.
Why so much exposure is being given to this particular issue is somewhat puzzling given the plethora of court precedents and opinions on such cases, the practicality of boys competing on girls' teams and the impact it would have on a much wider scale.
Although efforts to allow boys to compete on girls' teams in order to provide opportunities not available through school or community programs may be done with good intentions, those intentions are also short-sighted and a bit misguided.
It has been reported that a petition is being circulated, a web site being created and T-shirts being printed with "Fair is Fair" printed on them to voice well-intended support for the request. Some claim what's good for the gander is good for the goose.
Yes, girls have been able to compete on boys' teams, and some have excelled in doing so. Take Alyssa Lampe of Tomahawk, for example. Last year, she became the first girl wrestler to advance to the State Individual Wrestling Tournament. She won her first match of the tournament before losing the next two matches.
However, few would, or even could, refute a physiological difference between girls and boys, especially considering the maturation process that takes place between the ages of 15-18. That's not to say the competitiveness, judgment and skill level of boys surpasses that of girls, but natural maturation gives most boys an advantage in strength and speed, which continues to be accepted by science and in the courts.
In addition, when Title IX was enacted in the early 1970s, it would be hard to argue the equity intentions of the law included boys competing on girls' teams. In fact, it contradicts the legislation's intent. The advent of Title IX and its enforcement definitely narrowed the gap, but it hasn't closed it all the way. Females continue to be the underrepresented gender.
With all the great female athletes and their achievements over the last 30 years, it's difficult for some of us to comprehend the rationale why it took so long to have girls' athletics recognized in the same manner male sports have been.
Having a boy compete on a girls' team and displacing the opportunity for another girl certainly rejects the intent of the rule. Even if it doesn't displace someone from the roster, it will, at the very least, displace some of the instruction time in practice afforded to other girls. Let's play this out a bit. If a boy is able to compete on a girls' gymnastics team, regardless of skill level, how could we prevent boys from competing in other girls' sports?
With this precedent, there are a lot of schools in the membership that have girls' volleyball teams but not boys' volleyball teams. What would the reaction be if a gifted 6-foot-4 boy showed up for the first day of girls' volleyball practice or any other girls' sport practice? What possibilities of displacement and loss of opportunity for girls exist in these cases? How fair would that be?
Perhaps the most unfortunate and disappointing aspect of this entire situation is the fact the boy was initially led to believe he would be able to compete on the girls' team.
This is not a simple case of a boy being denied the ability to compete. It goes far beyond that as this scenario attempts to demonstrate. This is also not a situation whereby the WIAA is either uncompassionate or too restrictive in its regulations or interpretations.
This is an issue about one individual and a caring parent wanting what is best for her son. However, what's best for one person does not outweigh what's best for thousands of girls now and in the future. Would it be fair to jeopardize opportunities for thousands for the desires of one?
The clear answer is no. After all, what's fair is fair.