Ex-Morton softball coach takes swing at school district’s Title IX policy

Digital Originals

MORTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A former Morton softball coach is taking a swing at the school district.

Unequal facilities between softball and baseball in Morton are coming to the forefront with Gigi Macintosh’s Title IX concerns. She was not the first one to voice these issues, either.

“Last summer, I had a townsperson contact me because they wanted to know about the Title IX law, how it was viewed with softball and baseball facilities, and if it was fundraised for… does that fall under Title IX?” said MacIntosh, ex-Morton softball coach.

Macintosh did her research and spoke with Title IX lawyers and coaches from other states to get their take on Morton’s equity between teams.

“It’s not okay that those two facilities look the way they do and at its core, it’s like ‘Okay, are we really saying that we should not treat our daughters the same as our sons?’ like are we really saying that?” said Rebecca Carlson, head rugby coach at Quinnipiac University.

Carlson went on to explain that equity between men’s and women’s sports teams has always been an issue.

After conversations between MacIntosh and Morton High School’s Superintendent Jeff Hill, the school released a public statement on the issue:

We are aware of the claim that Ms. McIntosh has made a Title IX complaint to OCR.  We have not yet been contacted by OCR or any person, other than Ms. McIntosh, regarding any concerns related to the girl’s softball program or facilities.  In particular, neither the coaching staff nor any current or former parents or players has raised any concerns related to the girl’s softball program or facilities.

As for the underlying issues, the school district has been in the process of improving its athletic facilities including the softball facilities over the last several years.  In fact, the softball facilities at Birchwood Park went through a major renovation just 6 years ago at a cost of roughly $692,000.  

Ms. McIntosh raised a number of concerns regarding the school softball facilities in late spring / early summer of this year.  School representatives met with Ms. McIntosh to discuss her concerns.  Following those discussions, the school initiated a full review of the current state of our athletic facilities to ensure equity.  Upon completion of that review, a number of items were identified for improvement, and action was taken to address the issues.  A partial list of improvements that were either initiated or completed within the last three months include:

Fence Capping

Portable Screens

JH Indoor Cage

Birchwood Outdoor Cage

Backstop Padding

On-Deck Circles

Dugout Amenities

General Signage

Improving Sound System

To our knowledge, this all occurred prior to any complaint being filed by Ms. McIntosh. Still to be completed are infield and seating improvements, press box renovation, and concession stand upgrades, all on schedule to be ready for the Spring 2022 high school softball season. 

We have not seen the complaint filed by Ms. McIntosh, so we cannot comment on the particulars.  We do know that she was particularly concerned that the boy’s baseball teams had access to the indoor hitting facility built by the Morton Youth Baseball Association (MYBA) at Westwood Park and there was no similar facility at Birchwood.  Ms. McIntosh wanted the District to construct a facility at Birchwood for the softball program.  Preliminary estimates of the cost of such a facility would have been at least in the high six-figure range.  The girls had traditionally used the indoor batting cages at the high school in the event of inclement weather.  Instead of constructing a second facility, school representatives met with representatives of the Park District and MYBA to discuss the use of the Westwood facility by the high school and junior high softball programs.  Both organizations were supportive of allowing the District softball teams to share use of the facility.  Following that meeting, the administration sent a directive to our Athletic Director and coaches to ensure equity of use of the Westwood facility by both the baseball and softball teams.  To our knowledge, this also all occurred prior to any complaint being filed.

In sum, we believe that the District baseball and softball facilities and programs are equitable.  If OCR contacts the District, we will cooperate with any inquiry and will outline the current programs, facilities, and the steps that the District has taken to ensure equity.”

Sincerely, 

Jeff Hill

Superintendent

Morton District 709

Regarding the section that states, “The softball facilities at birchwood park went through a major renovation just 6 years ago at a cost of roughly $692,000,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, CEO of Champion Women and Olympic gold medalist, said Title IX does not focus on money spent on a team, but the equity of facilities, amenities, and coaching.

“We’ve had this law for 50 years. It’s not new on anybody’s radar and yet, you may have to spend large amounts of money to get… the scoreboard and the fence, and the locker rooms, and the stadium and the concession stand. To get those all up to the same standard as what the school is providing the boys,” said Hogshead-Makar.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights said they will be opening an investigation into Morton’s Title IX issues.

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