• U.S.

Education: Varsity Girls

2 minute read

Two years ago, the athletic director at Julia Barash’s high school in Monroe, N.Y., refused to let her try out for the school’s varsity tennis team−an all-male squad. His shaky ground: state regulations say that girls just don’t compete with boys. Julia appealed to the state education department. Advised by counsel that Julia would win a court case in straight sets, the department defaulted. She promptly became Monroe’s top player and pulled the team out of the cellar into a tie for first place.

To convince diehard objectors, state officials launched a re-examination of the traditional notion that “it is not yet socially acceptable for a girl to defeat a boy.” Now the results are in and varsity sexism is on the way out. More than 100 New York high schools accepted the department’s delicate invitation to test girls as competitors in “noncontact” sports like tennis, golf, bowling, riflery, swimming and track. Neither boys, coaches, parents nor girls themselves reported any bad effects once initial joshing wore off. Indeed, the sexes seemed to play extra hard to outdo each other. As a result, the state’s board of regents is being asked to allow such integration all over the state, though not in football and other mauling sports. As for Julia, she is now a tennis star at Cornell−on the women’s team.

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