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Girls Softball Within Closer Reach After Campbell County Vote

Tennessee Watson
Wyoming Public Radio

High school girls in Wyoming have access to 10 sports, while boys have 11. That's why advocates are pushing for girls softball to be added to the list of sanctioned sports. The Wyoming High School Activities Association will add girls softball as long as eight high schools agree to create teams.

On Tuesday the Campbell County School Board approved the sport at two of its high schools. Cody, Rock Springs, and Green River are already on board. Advocates are hopeful that Natrona County will sign on two of its high schools to bring the count to seven.

Laramie High School would bring the count to eight but Albany County School District #1 has been reluctant to give approval. The district got close in February but failed the measure on a 4-4 split vote. Opponents cited budget concerns.

Keith Ungrund's daughter plays on the club team he coaches in Cody, and he's one of the many passionate advocates for change in Wyoming. He acknowledged that schools have faced cuts, but he said funding is not an excuse for inequality.

"If you're familiar with Title IX, the federal regulation, it clearly addresses that financial constraints are not a justification for providing unequal opportunities," said Ungrund.

He's referring to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The federal law prohibits exclusion based on sex from education programs and activities receiving federal funding. That pertains to what happens in the classroom and school sports.

He said Wyoming districts spend an average of $100,000 more on boys sports than girls.

He acknowledged that's because more boys play sports, but he argues that with the addition of softball there will be more participation from girls.

"You look at the funding difference for male athletics versus female athletics, and that's what the girls are asking for: equal opportunities and equal funding for their sports programs that the males have," said Ungrund.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association would like eight schools to approve teams by September, in order to be ready for the first season in the spring of 2021. Ungrund said it will take about a year to coordinate scheduling and certify umpires.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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