May 8, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Students at Maspeth High School have been fighting for seven years to get two new boys sports teams approved by the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) after repeated denials from the Department of Education-run organization.
Maspeth High School has filed applications with the PSAL—the only established league where public schools can compete against one another—every year for the past seven years, requesting approval of a boys volleyball team and a boys junior varsity baseball team. Year after year, the PSAL has denied the requests with little explanation as to why or how to get the teams approved in the future.
“Every year we’d get the same generic response from PSAL, ‘Thanks for applying. Unfortunately we’re not able to grant your team’s request,’” said Jesse Pachter, Maspeth High School’s athletic director. “They would usually cite a generic reason like Title IX…or [that] they’re trying to approve teams for schools that don’t have a lot of teams.”
Title IX, a federal civil rights law passed in 1972, prohibits gender discrimination in athletic programs at institutions that receive federal funds. The law was intended to ensure that female athletes were given the same opportunities as their male peers.
Pachter says that the law is having the opposite effect, hurting boys.
After several denials, Pachter requested from PSAL a breakdown of the male and female ratios of students participating in sports teams at Maspeth High School. The results showed that 62 percent of the school’s females were participating in the league, compared to only 38 percent males.
Pachter says the school, which already has a varsity baseball team, has more than 50 students interested in joining a junior varsity team. Another 50 are interested in having a volleyball team.
“We have these kids and every year they come to me and ask ‘Mr. Pachter when are we going to get a boys volleyball team? Mr. Pachter when are we going to get a JV baseball team?’” Pachter said. “We have a varsity baseball team and over 100 kids go out for tryouts. They try to take as many kids as possible, but they can’t handle all of them.”
To try to meet the demand, Maspeth High School has set up baseball and volleyball clubs where students can scrimmage against one another. But the kids want to compete with other schools, Pachter says.
Assuming there might be funding issues preventing the approvals, as PSAL is responsible for paying the team’s coaches, Pachter says the school offered to fully fund the teams themselves. However, they were denied once again, leaving them even more frustrated and confused.
After the seventh denial, Pachter says the school called PSAL Executive Director Donald Douglas to ask for a roadmap they could use to eventually get the teams approved.
“He literally told us ‘There is no road map,’” Pachter said.
In 2017, members of the Maspeth High School student government brought the issue to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attention during a Glendale town hall. De Blasio said that both he and then-Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose would look into the matter, which de Blasio said seemed “fixable.” Pachter says neither he nor the students heard from de Blasio or Rose after the town hall, despite trying to contact them multiple times.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to request for comment.
Maspeth High School has recently turned to other local politicians including State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell, to ask for their help.
On April 30, Addabbo sent a letter to the PSAL asking them to reconsider the decision, stating that their denials do not coincide with the organization’s mission to provide educational opportunities through physical fitness.
According to Barnwell, he has had numerous conversations with PSAL, advocating for the approval of the teams.
“I keep calling and letting them, as well as the DOE, know this is a ridiculous policy considering Maspeth High School will even pay their own way,” Barnwell said. “However, as I don’t control PSAL or DOE, I don’t have power to mandate anything.”
Neither office has been provided with concrete reasoning for denying the boys teams, or ways for the teams to be approved in the future.
In a statement to the Ridgewood Post, a Department of Education spokesperson was also unable to address the reasons for the denials, but referenced the already existing multitude of sports teams at Maspeth High School.
“Access to sports can be transformative for students, and Maspeth High School students play on 26 teams,” the spokesperson said. “Every year we receive hundreds of applications for new teams, and we work to meet the needs of all school communities with a focus on more equitable access citywide.”
PSAL did not respond to request for comment.
Pachter says that despite the repeated denials, they are going to keep fighting to get new sports teams for their school.
“These kids are fantastic kids and all they want to do is participate in athletics.” Pachter said. “We will do everything in our power to fight for our students and get them that opportunity to participate.”