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Field Hockey Coach Nancy Cole: Feeling The Heat From Filing A Title IX Complaint

Even though the two rooms will remain vastly different, the OCR approved the plan Middle Country submitted by its Dec. 29 deadline and ordered the district to submit receipts for the completed work by July 31 of this year.

O'Connor-Roys, the district assistant superintendent, says Middle Country intended to use money from the $32.5-million bond issue and renovate the girls team room months before Cole filed her papers with the OCR.

"It had nothing to do with [Cole's Title IX] complaint," O'Connor- Roys says.

But Granger, who left the Centereach athletic director's job the same month the bond issue passed, says, "They can say whatever they want, but I never was sure it [the renovation] was a done deal. If that were true, why didn't they say, 'Hey, Nancy. Guess what? We're going to do this' when she told them she was prepared to file?

"It was just talk. You don't want to make promises before the budget vote. Fine. But Nancy had been asking for this for years. You could look at those two team rooms and say, 'Yep. We've got a problem. Gotta fix it.' It was a no-brainer. A complete no-brainer. After Middle Country hired me [two years earlier], I suggested to them that we do a Title IX self-audit. And they were like, 'Go away, little person. You're encouraging us to get ourselves in trouble?' I said, 'Not in trouble. I'm talking about putting a plan in place to meet the spirit and letter of the law.'

"To my mind, the plan they are talking about now doesn't achieve that."

Some renovations have already been done. When finished, the girls team room will be significantly upgraded but still nearly three times smaller.

The boys team room will still have more lockers (191 to 69), more showers, and far more space (approximately 1,889 square feet more for the boys). The boys teams and coaches also will continue to enjoy amenities their female counterparts have never had, including an athletic trainer's room, a coach's office with a telephone and shower, and a separate "varsity" room within the main team room.

Middle Country refused to allow a Newsday reporter or photographer to visit the school and view the existing facilities, again citing the fear of litigation. The room dimensions and some details listed above come from an architectural rendering of the Centereach boys locker room that was obtained by Newsday. The renovation plan for the girls team room was provided by O'Connor-Roys, who said it was the same one the district submitted to satisfy the OCR.

Murphey, the OCR spokesman, says, "We're satisfied with the district' s plan ... and the renovations."

Even if Cole is not. "The new room will be nicer but the biggest problem, which they still didn't address, is the lack of space," Cole says. She estimates that for the upcoming fall season, Centereach will have 150 boys and 150 girls playing on the nine varsity and JV teams based on last year' s numbers.

Lamar Daniel, a consultant on Title IX and gender equity who worked 20 years as an OCR branch manager and investigator, finds the OCR's ruling puzzling.

"Given there are not three times the number of boy athletes to girls athletes there, I think that [the space difference] should've been taken into consideration," said Daniels, who is not involved in this case. "I think it's absolutely incumbent on OCR to address the space issue. It's very difficult for me to give you anything completely definitive...not having the same information as the OCR. No law says the square footage has to be equal. However, the district does have to provide facilities for both girls and boys that are 'equal or equal in effect.'

"But I think the OCR might've goofed in this one."

Cole returned to school in late April after a five-month leave to recover from disc surgery. Since then, she's felt gratified that she and her colleagues seem able to coexist again without much incident. She has been asked frequently if she would file her Title IX complaint again, knowing what she knows now, and she admits there were times she has wondered. But in the end, Cole says, the answer she always lands upon is, "Yes. Yes, I would do it again."