Lacrosse advocates in Henry County plan to attend Monday’s Board of Education meeting in full numbers, hoping to make the case that they have the solution to the county’s Title IX problem, and the feeling of urgency is building.
Members of the Henry County Lacrosse Association (HCLA) intend to ask the board to consider adding lacrosse as a sanctioned high school sport as early as next spring, and Keith Thomas of the HCLA says there’s one team ready to go — a girl’s team at Union Grove High School.
“It’s all about the girls right now,” Thomas said. “They seem to be more passionate than the boys. The growth compared to the boys has been expotential. We can’t let that die. If it dies, we’re going to be behind the eight-ball to get it built back up.”
The county has been under the cloud of a complaint filed by the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center since November 2010. The center alleged that Henry County, along with 11 other counties across the country, was in violation of federal Title IX law, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports.
Meanwhile, the HCLA is under the cloud of foreboding circumstances. While it has grown to over 150 players and 10 teams in just two years, its high school girl’s team is running out of competition.
As the rest of metro Atlanta jumps on the lacrosse bandwagon — Henry County is one of only three counties in the metro area without lacrosse sanctioned as a high school sport — it leaves HCLA’s girl’s high school club team left to search for competition elsewhere.
“We’re just afraid the girls will lose interest,” Thomas said, “and if we don’t have anybody to play, it’ll dissolve.”
So, Thomas and other lacrosse advocates have been building their case since February — contacting the Georgia High School Association, meeting with BOE members, inviting BOE members to weekend HCLA tournaments and getting an extension from the GHSA on the deadline for high schools to report their athletic teams for next school year.
Which leads to Monday. Thomas said as many as 250 people could attend the BOE meeting. He hopes a sea of kids clad in lacrosse uniforms would underscore the sport’s popularity in Henry County.
Thomas said he doesn’t expect the BOE to vote on sanctioning lacrosse Monday. But he does hope the lacrosse community’s presence at the meeting makes an impression.
“We hope the Board will look at us as true partners,” Thomas said. “The timing is impeccable. They have this Title IX issue to resolve, and we have this sport growing here.”
J.D. Hardin, a Communication’s Specialist with Henry County Schools, said the potential to add an interscholatic sport must be considered from a multitude of angles — interest level, competition for facilities, region assignment by the GHSA and, of course, costs.
“While we are always receptive to the growth of our [athletic] programs, any movement forward must be thoroughly planned and well though-out prior to Board approval,” Hardin said. “Anything less would not provide the stable environment in which the new activity could flourish.”
Thomas said the HCLA understands the BOE must consider.
“They’re all very supportive,” Thomas said, “but they have to be prudent and consider all aspects. From our angle it seems very easy.”