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A teenage girl was severely injured during a field hockey match after she was struck in the face by a shot that was fired by a male competitor on the opposing team. The unnamed player had to be hospitalized.
The young girl, who plays for Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School, sustained “significant facial and dental injuries,” according to Supt. Bill Runey.
The fully-grown and much larger male athlete plays for the girl’s field hockey team at Swampscott High School.
The Swampscott athletic director told television station WCVB their male athlete did nothing wrong and “has the exact same right to participate as any player on any team.”
However, Supt. Runey said something must be done to protect female athletes and he called on the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to make changes to the rules.
“Seeing the horror in the eyes of our players and coaches upon greeting their bus last night is evidence to me that there has to be a renewed approach by the MIAA to protect the safety of our athletes,” he wrote in a letter to parents.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released a statement saying student safety is not a good enough reason to make any changes.
“We respect and understand the complexity and concerns that exist regarding student safety. However, student safety has not been a successful defense to excluding students of one gender from participating on teams of the opposite gender. The arguments generally fail due to the lack of correlation between injuries and mixed-gender teams,” the MIAA wrote.
The MIAA said “athletic opportunities must be afforded to students in accordance with their identified gender, not necessarily their birth-assigned gender.”
In other words, inclusivity is more important than a teenage girl’s front teeth.
Superintendent Bill Runey’s letter:
Dear DRRSD School Community,
Last night, a female field hockey player for the Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School girls’ field hockey team sustained significant facial and dental injuries when she was struck in the face by a shot in the third quarter versus Swampscott in an MIAA state playoff contest. The shot was taken by a male member of the Swampscott girls field hockey team. This injury required hospitalization. The player, her family, teammates, and coaches remain in my prayers.
While I understand that the MIAA has guidelines in place for co-ed participation under section 43 of their handbook, this incident dramatically magnifies the concerns of many about player safety.
In speaking with a representative of the MIAA this morning, she shared that the MIAA handbook has a legal note explaining how the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment makes the participation of males on female teams legal. I understand that the Mass ERA legislation is voluminous; and therefore, is very difficult to modify in total. However, seeing the horror in the eyes of our players and coaches upon greeting their bus last night is evidence to me that there has to be a renewed approach by the MIAA to protect the safety of our athletes. In years past, there were provisions in girls’ volleyball that, although boys could participate, they could not play on the front line because their ability to spike the ball created a higher level of risk. I have been told that those restrictions were deemed illegal and no longer exist. Athletics has come so far in the realm of safety, but the equipment and the training that our athletes are receiving in today’s day and age requires us to be more thoughtful about all of our rules and policies regarding safety.
To be clear, I have the utmost respect for the abilities of female athletes. I am the father of three and all three were very successful in their high school athletic careers. My two daughters remain in the athletic realm today due, in large part, to their positive experience in high school athletics. We have a responsibility to preserve that positivity for all of our athletes today and in the future.Supt. Bill Runey