A Quakertown, Pa., high school senior has submitted the first legal challenge to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's recent changes to the high school sports gender rules.
Joshua Schwarz, 17, and his parents have filed for a preliminary injunction with the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas that will allow him to continue playing for the Quakertown High School girl's field hockey team, which began its 2014-2015 season on Aug. 29. The Quakertown School Board voted to make the team a girls-only squad in light of the rule changes by the state's public school sports governing body.
In June 2014, the PIAA voted to basically ban boys from competing with girls in certain sports. According to the rule changes, a school principal can determine whether a boy may play on a girls' team based on four factors: The boy wouldn't displace a girl from the team, the boy wouldn't increase the risk of injury to opponents because of his size, the boy wouldn't provide a significant competitive advantage, and the overall sports program at the school provides fewer opportunities for boys than girls.
The PIAA has also voted to sanction boys field hockey teams at the high school level, but there are no such programs currently available at Quakertown High School. If Schwarz is allowed to play with the girls' team, the gender mixed squad will be forced to compete in the postseason against only boys field hockey teams, according to the rules.
The suit also states that Schwarz has played varsity field hockey for Quakertown since 2011, and looked forward to using the final season to further his playing career at the collegiate level. The complaint says that he has never been penalized for aggressive play and that he is well-liked by the coaching staff and his teammates.
The complaint says that the new rule uses gender as its only criteria for determining playing time and opportunity, thus making it a violation of the Equal Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution. According to the suit, the June vote also violated the PIAA's parliamentary rules by not giving the rule change a third reading.
The plaintiffs say that the rule was first introduced at the Dec. 12, 2013 meeting, but was significantly changed. That revision was only read twice before the final vote to adopt was taken.
Schwarz is represented by Ettore Angelo in Allentown.