CHESHIRE – What started as a routine budget presentation at last week’s Board of Education meeting, turned when lawyer and town resident Natale DiNatale stepped to the podium to address what he called the town’s lack of school funding for girls ice hockey at the high school.
After Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan presented his budget to the Board of Education, Chair Tony Perugini opened the meeting up to public comments.
“We are here to address something that, quite frankly in 2020, I am surprised we still have to bring up,” DiNatale began. “In Cheshire, we continue to tell our students that we offer equal sports opportunities for both girls and boys, but that isn’t true. While I have nothing against cheerleading, under Title IX they are not considered a varsity interscholastic sport, yet Cheshire continues to claim that cheerleading, sometimes called ‘competitive cheer,’ counts as one.”
DiNatale also stated his belief that Cheshire has allowed girls’ ice hockey as a club sport but not a full-fledged team sport in order to avoid the Title IX requirements. Players and supporters of the club team – the Blades – also turned out at the meeting.
Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
In reference to a possible Title IX violation, Perugini is not worried about a potential lawsuit.
“It’s something our lawyers and people above me are looking into,” he said. “But as of where we are right now, I don’t believe we are in any violation. But we will see what Solan has to say once he looks into the issue more.”
DiNatale and the Blades believe that the easiest way to fix the issue is to fund girls ice hockey as sanctioned school sport, since the school district already funds boys ice hockey as a sanctioned sport.
“It isn’t fair that the boys ice hockey team only has to pay the participation fee, which is $250, while the girls have to pay $1,800 in order to be a part of the (co-op) team,” said Cheshire High School senior and member of the Blades, Nadia DiNatale. “The boys’ team also gets bussed to and from every practice and game... where the girls’ team has to be driven by their parents to every game and practice, except for the four times Amity picks up the bill.”
At the Jan. 10 meeting, the Blades explained that the girls co-op team, which includes students from North Haven and Amity, has to pay for the entire cost of the sport, while the boys team only pays the participation fee.
Solan and the members of the school board thanked the girls and DiNatale for their testimonies, and said they would consider the request.
“I am impressed, but not at all surprised by the level of eloquence and bravery shown by these students,” Solan said. “Hockey has been a big part of my life and I can assure you we will look at the issues you’ve addressed tonight.”