Saturday, May 07, 2005

'You won't molest my daughter, eh? Then, I'll see you in court.'

Confirming its Blue Enclave status, Puget Sound youth wrestlers may have to play with girls, no matter what:

The girls stepped onto the mat. Their opponents from Tacoma Baptist and Cascade Christian stayed in their seats. The referee then raised the girls' hands to signal they'd won by forfeit.

But the easy victories didn't sit well with the girls, including Meaghan Connors, a seventh-grader at McMurray Middle School on Vashon Island. Her father, Jerry, is prepared to go to court over what he considers a clear case of sex discrimination.

For years, schools in the Rainier Valley League, including McMurray, have honored the ability of the two private schools to forfeit matches rather than have a boy wrestle one of the handful of girls on the public-school teams.

League President Dan Petersen said it was the same as honoring desires of other religious schools not to compete on certain days.

He noted that wrestling rules allow a forfeit for any reason.

"I don't care if it's a religious school or not," he said. "If a person chooses not to wrestle, they don't have to wrestle."

Tacoma Baptist's superintendent did not return phone calls about the policy and the reasons for it. At Cascade Christian in Puyallup, Superintendent Don Johnson said the school "does not want to put our young men in a situation where they would be inappropriately touching a young lady."

Connors, however, believes the forfeit rule shouldn't be used to discriminate against girls, including his daughter, one of a half-dozen girls on teams in the league, drawn from schools in King, Pierce and Mason counties.

Connors, a former Episcopal president and one-time pastoral assistant for social justice at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, believes religion should play a role in public life. "But there's a limit," he said.

Just before he drove off in his Peugeot?

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