June 23, 2018
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A girls hockey team for Presque Isle High School isn’t a Title IX issue

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

There are sacrifices to be made by anyone based on where they choose to live.

Hillary Albert lives in Presque Isle, where her dad teaches at Northern Maine Community College and she’s a high school junior.

A three-sport athlete, Hillary would like to represent her school on a girls’ ice hockey team, but Presque Isle High School doesn’t offer girls-only hockey and she did not make the existing team comprised predominantly of boys when she tried out as a freshman and a sophomore.

When her dad asked school officials what was needed to establish a girls-only hockey team, Dennis Albert was told $150,000 was required to start and sustain such a program for the first few years — a prerequisite similar to that given the existing team 20 years earlier.

He has been a diligent fundraiser since then, applying for grants, holding bottle drives and auctions, and even selling candles, efforts yielding only $23,000.

Yet the effort hasn’t gone unnoticed, as the Alberts have attracted national attention thanks to interest generated by advocates of Title IX — federal legislation that provides for equitable treatment and opportunities for girls and boys in academics and athletics.

Dennis Albert was interviewed by National Public Radio last November, and last Sunday the CBS Evening News introduced a story about alleged sexual harassment at Yale University that evolved into a piece alluding to Title IX issues at Presque Isle that included interviews with both Alberts and Presque Isle athletic administrator Dave Heald.

But is this really a Title IX issue? I don’t think so — and apparently neither does anyone else beyond some national media, for while various groups routinely pursue Title IX cases in court, Dennis Albert says no litigation has been instigated nor is any pending.

“I’m just exploring all the avenues,” he said.

The issues here transcend the numbers of male and female athletes at Presque Isle High School, which Heald said are close particularly when including cheering, an activity that isn’t clearly defined as a Title IX sport though it has an established competitive element in Maine.

Opinions differ about whether there are enough players in the area to sustain a girls-only hockey team at Presque Isle. Albert now plays on a girls-only team based outside the school that her father said has involved 14 or 15 girls annually over the last four years between ages 12 and 18.

Heald says more players — up to 19 — of high school age alone are needed for a varsity team.

The nearest Maine high school girls team to Presque Isle resides some 220 miles away in Winslow, with the other 14 schools in the state that field girls-only teams located from Greater Lewiston south, making transportation a prohibitive cost in these days of radically increasing fuel prices.

And Hillary Albert ultimately does have the right to vie for a roster spot on the existing Presque Isle hockey team, much like high school boys in Maine may try out for field hockey squads dominated by girls or girls compete on wrestling teams made up mostly of boys.

Dennis Albert plans to continue his efforts on behalf of his daughter and future girls hockey players in the area, while school officials aren’t averse to having a girls-only team so long as it is adequately funded from the outset and has a sufficient player pool to sustain itself over time.
“They realize my side and I realize their side,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll come together in the middle.”

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