'Winds of progress' swept soccer into Piedmont

HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER PLAYOFFS — It took a federal lawsuit to get soccer started at Piedmont High School. Two years later the Wildcat girls are in the state soccer playoffs
by Jason Kersey Published: April 26, 2012
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PIEDMONT — Visitors entering the town on northbound State Highway 4 are greeted by a brick sign, boasting Piedmont's “Winds of progress.”

In early 2010, five parents didn't think they were making any progress convincing their school district to create a high school girls' soccer program.

Their frustration led them to court, suing Piedmont schools for noncompliance with Title IX, a section of the federal code that prohibits gender discrimination by schools receiving federal money.

Just a little over two years later, nearing the 40-year anniversary of Title IX's enactment, all parties are thrilled to have a Piedmont soccer program, proud of the success it's already experienced and excited about its future.

In its second year — and first in OSSAA competition — Piedmont's girls are 10-3 and open the playoffs Friday night at home against Santa Fe South.

The boys' team, which was established at the same time as the girls, narrowly missed a playoff berth.

But no one involved is necessarily thrilled with how high school soccer in Piedmont came to exist.

“It was unfortunate (the school district) took the approach they did,” said Bill Nixon, whose daughter Brenna is a junior for the Wildcats.

“I don't think it was necessary,” said Piedmont superintendent James White, who wasn't with the district at the time of the suit.

Piedmont offered soccer in the late 1990s, but interest was so low that several games were forfeited due to lack of players, White said.

But Bill Nixon said parents have approached school administrators and the school board for years asking for the creation of a soccer program to no avail.

When Brenna Nixon was a freshman, her dad said he went before the school board to ask again.

“The message we got was, ‘Give us another year,'” Bill Nixon said.

But he didn't want to wait another year. Bill Nixon is a lawyer, so he began researching his options and came across Sam Schiller, an attorney based in Tennessee who has been involved in dozens of successful Title IX lawsuits around the country — and over 20 in Oklahoma.

INTEREST IN SOCCER

In 1979, the federal government provided Title IX interpretation, articulating three ways a recipient of federal funds could be in compliance with the law.

* Providing athletic opportunities proportionate to student enrollment.

* Demonstrating a history of continued expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented gender.

* Accomodating the interest of the underrepresented gender.

Schiller and Nixon said the district's athletic opportunites were not proportionate to enrollment, and the district couldn't show a history of adding female sports.

“That would be OK if we didn't have girls who were expressing interest in forming a particular team,” Schiller said. “There was a great deal of interest in soccer. So under the law, they're required to satisfy it.”

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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