Motion to allow female student to wrestle at Line Mountain receives no support
MANDATA - A motion from a Line Mountain School Board director to allow seventh-grade student Audrianna Beattie to participate in the district's wrestling program and to take all steps to withdraw from a federal lawsuit filed by her parents received no support from fellow board members Tuesday night.
Director Lamont Masser told the other board members that the lawsuit is a distraction from their primary job of providing quality education to the students of the districts.
"The litigation surrounding our wrestling program will have no positive effect for our school," he said. "Regardless of the outcome, the only certainty is that we will spend our time, our administrators' time and the taxpayers' money, all of which could and should be put to better use."
The News-Item requested a list of the costs associated with defending the lawsuit on Nov. 4 but received no response. Before the meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Dave Campbell passed the question onto Business Manager Phil Rapant, who in turn said the request was sent to solicitor Rich Roberts to determine whether the information could be released. Roberts was not at the meeting.
Brian and Angie Beattie, parents of Audrianna Beattie, filed the lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of their daughter who was not allowed on the wrestling program because it's gender-specific.
Masser said the board has spent most of their time in the last few years discussing, in order of importance, the building project; labor issues including contracts, negotiations, litigation, hiring and firing, and athletics.
"Last place, getting the least amount of attention, is academics. I think our priorities are out of order," he said.
Masser said the board has wasted money by spending thousands of dollars on a rabbit cage, millions of dollars renovating buildings that were later closed and hundreds of thousands of dollars connecting two toilets as part of the building project.
"I'm tired of flushing away the taxpayers' money," he said.
Masser then made the motion to allow the girl to wrestle and to take steps to remove the district from the lawsuit. It died for lack of a second.
After the motion, President Troy Laudenslager said he was offended by Masser's statement that the board members weren't putting education first.
They don't discuss educational materials in length because they trust their administrators to make recommendations for the schools, he said.
"We're a governing body. We're a board. We have to defend the policies we have," he said.
Campbell also said the board has made a commitment to education. No teaching staff has been cut in the building consolidation and the rabbit cages were purchased for education, he said.
The test scores also reflect the commitment, he said.
After the meeting, Masser said he is not surprised of the outcome.
"I expected that," he said. "It's my opinion, not anyone else's obviously."
The Beatties say the school board is discriminating against their daughter on the basis of sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment of the state constitution.
By denying the girl participation, they said she would have missed opportunities to practice and compete, which would cause her to fall behind in her development as a wrestler and prevent her from being able to compete in the future.
A federal judge ruled Nov. 1 that Audrianna is allowed to participate in the wrestling program until the suit is settled.
A hearing for preliminary injunction is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Courtroom 3 at the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 240 W. Third St., Williamsport, in front of U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann.
Campbell had no comment Tuesday night before the meeting regarding the lawsuit and directed all questions to attorney Chris Conrad, of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Camp Hill. Conrad also had no comment last week.