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Hess v. Ramona Unified School Dist

September 13, 2007

KAREN R. HESS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RAMONA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States Magistrate Judge

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RELIEF RECOMMENDATION REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF INJUNCTIVE

The undersigned, after consultation with the parties and review of numerous proposals, issues the following Recommendation regarding the implementation of injunctive relief in this case. The parties will submit their comments on the Recommendation separately.

BACKGROUND

On July 26, 2007, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. United States District Judge Thomas Whelan found that Plaintiffs established a likelihood of success on the merits of their Title IX claim against Defendant, the Ramona Unified School District ("the District"). The injunction requires that the District provide facilities for the Ramona High School Girls' Softball teams on the Ramona High School campus of equal quality to that of the fields the Ramona High School Boys' Baseball teams have on campus.

Specifically, the Court required the District provide the Softball teams with facilities that give the girls' teams the same benefits the boys' teams have enjoyed for years, including access to locker rooms, medical and training services, and playing fields of equal quality starting with the 2008 season. The Court ordered the parties work together in good faith to arrive at a plan to remedy the situation and submit a joint proposal, or separate proposals as necessary, to the Court by September 14, 2007.

The parties enlisted the assistance of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to mediate the process of generating a joint proposal. Both parties participated in good faith. A number of plans and alternatives were generated, recognizing certain physical space limitations and other constraints. As part of the process, the undersigned met with the parties at Ramona High School on August 24, 2007, for an on-site evaluation of the alternative proposals. It was the goal of the parties, and the undersigned, to formulate a plan that complies with the Court's order, provides for the District's competing needs for use of the campus land, creates a safe environment for the student athletes and spectators, and offers a long-term solution.

DISCUSSION

Proposal One

The first proposal was to construct three new playing fields on the campus grounds immediately north of the high school buildings and east of the dedicated Boys' Varsity Baseball field. This plan would provide a new dedicated field for the Varsity Girls' Softball team, equivalent to the Varsity Boys' Baseball field*fn1 on the site of the current JV/Freshman Boys' Baseball field, oriented however in the same direction as the Varsity Baseball field.*fn2 A new JV/Freshman Boys' Baseball field and a new JV/Freshman Girls' Softball field would be constructed in the remaining open area. The plan contemplated both the JV/Freshman fields being constructed in a manner and orientation that would allow the land to be used by other athletic teams and physical education classes when not in use by the softball and baseball teams. During the site inspection, it became apparent that this configuration, although feasible on paper, posed numerous safety issues as the fields would be very close together with the potential for long-hit or foul balls encroaching on school grounds and other playing fields endangering players, students and spectators. Also the proposed orientation of the Boys' JV/Freshman Baseball field, designed to preserve open space, raised concerns about visual interference by the sun causing a danger for players.

Proposal Two

The second proposal was to construct the dedicated Girls' Varsity Softball field on the site of the Boys' JV/Freshman Baseball field, identical to Proposal One. A new JV/Freshman Baseball field would be constructed to the east of the new Girl's Varsity field, also identical to Proposal One. The alternative was to renovate the field on the neighboring Olive Pierce Middle School Campus ("OPMS field") for the JV/Freshman Softball teams to use. The OPMS field, although not on the High School campus, is a short walk from the high school locker facilities and medical service center (less than 5 minutes). This proposal alleviated some of the safety concerns of crowding the three new fields onto the available high school campus land, but not entirely. There were still safety concerns regarding the orientation of the proposed new JV/Freshman Baseball field. As with Proposal One, in order to preserve open land, the field orientation has sun interference issues as well as the potential for long-hit and foul balls encroaching on school grounds.

Proposal Three

The District proposed a third alternative - to construct a dedicated Girls' Softball field on the site of the current JV/Freshman Baseball field, with no additional field construction. The Boys' Varsity, JV, and Freshman Baseball teams would share the current dedicated Boys' Varsity Baseball field. The Girls' Varsity and JV Softball teams*fn3 would share the new dedicated Girls' Varsity Softball field.

This proposal contemplates constructing the new Softball field on the existing JV Baseball field using the same orientation of the existing field. The District represents that renovation of the existing field from a baseball to softball field and adding the required amenities would not require approval from the Division of State Architects and would therefore save valuable time allowing completion of the project by the start of the 2008 season. It would also save District resources that could be used in the future for field construction ...


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