QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - Effective immediately, Quakertown Community High School boys will no longer be permitted to play on the high school varsity girls' field hockey team.
At Thursday evening's meeting, the Quakertown Community School District School Board unanimously voted to follow a recently passed Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc. rule setting guidelines and limitations on cross gender team play.
According to board solicitor Jeffrey P. Garton, PIAA released the decision June 20. The decision became effective July 1.
The rule specifies and sets a limit on mixed-gender participation in sports. In the case of high school, if a boy participates in a girls' field hockey game, the girls' team is ineligible for post-season play.
"It's a rule," Garton told the board.
Parents and students showed up in full force to express to board members their concerns and support regarding boys participating on the high school girls' field hockey team.
Quakertown High School students and members of the girls' field hockey team Becky Gerhart and Emma McLaughlin urged the board to follow the PIAA rules.
Both students said if the board allows boys to participate on the team, the team as a whole will be precluded from post-season play, which will adversely affect their chances of being recruited by colleges.
Steffany Schwarz of Quakertown, whose son Josh has played on the girls' field hockey team, asked the board to allow the boys to continue to play on the team. To date, three boys are members of the team.
"If they aren't allowed to play, you are taking away my son's senior year," she said. "He wants to play field hockey."
Quakertown High School student and field hockey player Madison Calder also spoke in favor of permitting the boys to remain members of the team.
"We are a team," she said. "If the boys won't play, I won't play."
Parent of field hockey player Susan Hadfield of Trumbauersville said she was disappointed the board did not discuss and vote on the matter at an earlier meeting.
"It's a tough decision you're faced with," she said. "You let us down by not making this decision sooner."
Hadfield further said she prefers to see female sports remain female only.
Quakertown Borough resident Denise Fox told the board her daughter opted to refrain from participating on the field hockey team this year based on safety concerns. Fox also said if the board allows the boys to play, it sets a bad example for the girls.
"What is this teaching our girls?" she asked. "It's okay to break the rules?"
Board member Joyce King, a vocal opponent of the PIAA, said the organization puts the school district in a difficult position.
"PIAA did not give adequate time," she said. "This is a terrible, terrible decision PIAA has forced upon us."
Board member Dwight Anderson argued against boys participating on the team due to their physical size and strength.
"The boys are faster and stronger," he said. "There's a real difference in the physicality."
Josh Schwarz, who has played on the team, stressed to the board he is not a hazard to girls. He said it is unfair to him and the other boys to penalize them when they are skilled players.
"I shouldn't be kept out of the sport," he said.
Member of the board Anna Cattie also said she supports the team entering post-season play.
"I wouldn't want to take that opportunity away from them," she said.
Stacie Calder, mother of Madison Calder, cautioned the board of the possibility of a lawsuit in the future. She said the American Civil Liberties Union has been contacted.
"There will be lawsuits and injunctions," she said. "We're willing to take this all the way."
District Superintendent William Harner said he hopes the boys will remain supporters of the girls' varsity team.
According to Harner, the boys may participate in the junior varsity girls' field hockey team.
Allentown, PA 18102