At Grant, The Widening Gap Of Treatment Towards Softball Ends Up In A Federal Lawsuit

Portland — In a recently filed federal lawsuit which mirrors that of the 2016 Lake Oswego Softball lawsuit, Grant High School softball has finally had enough of delayed upgrades to their facility, ones that have been promised but unfulfilled. According to the lawsuit, part of Grant High School’s $138 million renovation was to include the building of a new softball facility, replacing the current use of the program’s dirt softball field at Wilshire Park. However, when the school district unveiled the newly updated Grant campus, there was no new softball facility for the girls, just another pack of unfulfilled hope and promises.

In Portland Public Schools (PPS) blueprints there were two plans for the softball team, the “base master plan” and “alternative master plan”, which presented completely different strategies. The original plan was to build a new softball field inside their football stadium, also known as the Grant Bowl, which would’ve reconfigured the whole facility to make both track and field work alongside softball. It also included upgraded field lighting and a replaced turf amongst other things. This project would’ve cost $11.5 million and left the upper field without any upgrades, the facility shared by baseball and soccer. The bizarreness of this plan by PPS is acknowledged by the district, who listed downsized soccer field dimensions, overlaps in the outfield, and a complete renovation/reconstruction of runways and pits for track as cons towards the project among others.

The alternative plan was to move softball to the upper field facility, where they would be sharing it with baseball. It included expanded lighting for both the Grant Bowl and the upper field, more ideal locations towards locker rooms, seating, and indoor facilities, all the while providing the upgrades for track and field. Compared to the previous plan, it only cost an additional $1.2 million to construct a new softball facility opposite the baseball team in the upper field. However, neither softball option was utilized or built despite the blueprints explicitly stating that the building of new softball facilities were the top priority in the project. Additionally PPS said, “PPS also received a complaint in 2019 under Title IX about the location and condition of the softball field. Pursuing the Alternate Master Plan as a phased approach will also allow PPS to address the Title IX complaint in a timely manner, utilizing existing funding resources.” Despite the ongoing Title IX complaint, PPS decided to ignore it and approve a resolution that cut the softball facility completely out of the project

Now, in July 2021, the school district is scrambling to obtain land use permits through the City of Portland in order to build a new softball field opposite the baseball field, when they could’ve done that 19 months ago. Subsequently, the new federal lawsuit filed by Coach Deborah Englestad and players Madyson Roach, Olivia Dunn, and Elisabeth Kollrack looks to force the hand of PPS. In a scathing statement, the lawsuit says “The declination to provide an adequate softball facility during such renovations shows a practice and pattern of continued discrimination against female athletes and denial of equal treatment in violation of Title IX.” They are asking a federal judge to order PPS and Grant High School to make a plan to not only construct an equitable facility, but to bring their gender discrimination to an end.

One of their attorneys, Sean J. Riddell, blasted the school district, “Our clients believe Portland Public Schools won’t do the right thing until they’re forced to.” According to Coach Englestad, “as of July 2nd there were no appeals filed and so hopefully we can press forward with the field.” She continued on to say, “There has been no resolution that I am aware of but I am hopeful that we are closer to actually having a field constructed. For years and years, there has been a lot of talk and meetings but no action.” Until then, a Title IX complaint and subsequent federal lawsuit loom over a school district that has miserably failed to provide equal treatment and facilities to Grant’s softball program, leaving them behind on a dirt field without restrooms, electricity, and to deal with constant conflicts with leagues throughout Portland.

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