A 13-year-old New York boy who played field hockey growing up in Ireland has been told that after two years as a member of the Southampton High School girls’ team, he is now too skilled to qualify for an exemption allowing him to compete with – and against – girls next season.
Keeling Pilaro is appealing the decision by the governing body for high school sports in Suffolk County, and a lawyer for his family suggests a court battle could ensue if the ball doesn’t bounce Keeling’s way. An appeals committee said it looked only at his skills, not size or strength, when upholding the decision to keep him off the field. That raises a question of discrimination.
Keeling’s fight appears to be a rare example of a young man seeking to take advantage of Title IX, a 40-year-old law enacted to provide women equal access to athletic opportunities. There are no boys’ high school field hockey teams anywhere on Long Island, or, for that matter, in most of the country.
“It’s really annoying,” the eighth-grader said in a recent interview. “I’m just 4-foot-8 and 82 pounds, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed to play. I don’t really care if I’m on a girls’ team or a boys’ team, I just want to play.”
The problem, according to Edward Cinelli, the director of the organization that oversees high school athletics in Suffolk County, is that state education law won’t allow it. He cited a provision that says administrators are permitted to bar boys from girls’ teams if a boy’s participation “would have a significant adverse effect” on a girl’s opportunity to participate in interschool competition in that sport. Officials say Keeling’s skills are superior to the girls he plays against, creating an unfair advantage.
Read more: MSNBC