Boys may no longer compete on girls sports teams sponsored by Baltimore County, the county Recreation and Parks Department has ruled.
"It's for the integrity of the sport," Charles L. Fisher, the department's deputy director, said yesterday.
Boys playing on girls' teams became an issue in the county last month when girls' softball teams forfeited games rather than play a team from Turners Station that included four boys.
As a result, the coed team won the county girls' softball championship by default.
County officials said that boys had played on girls' softball teams before but that none had made it to tournament competition.
Tanya Evans, who managed the Turners Station team, claimed that race was the key factor in other teams' refusal to play her team. The Turners Station team was the only all-black team in the league.
Ms. Evans could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ken Greenwood, who coached a girls' team from Parkville that refused to play the coed team, said that he was happy about the ruling.
"It's the right move," he said. "It's the way it should have been in the first place. Race had nothing to do with it."
Mr. Greenwood and other coaches from girls' teams said they were concerned about the girls' safety.
But Mr. Fisher said "it was not necessarily because of safety concerns," that the rule was changed. "It was more because of the fact that there was an uneasy feeling about the whole thing," he said.
Mr. Fisher said that his office had determined before the tournament in July to review the policy that allowed boys to play on girls' teams.
Girls, he said, still will be allowed to play on boys' teams.
"There is one fundamental difference," Mr. Fisher said. "If your daughter goes and signs up on a boys' baseball team, you as a parent know what she is getting into."
But if girls sign up for what they believe are all-girls teams, and boys are allowed to play, parents could get more than what they had in mind, he said.
Wayne R. Harmon, the director of the department, said in an Aug. 20 letter announcing the decision to recreation and parks council presidents that he knew this was "a sensitive topic" for many people.
"Throughout the years, our department has had concerns about the impact boys' playing on what have traditionally been all-girl teams would have.
"Earlier this year, we received several concerns about the number of boys playing softball and, as a result, asked our rules committee to revisit and examine this rule."
The county rule allowing boys to play on traditionally girls softball teams was instituted in 1977 in response to federal legislation requiring female athletes to have the same opportunities as males.
"In order to respond to the mandate and expectations [of the federal legislation], we will still permit girls to participate in all county tournaments," the letter stated.
Mr. Harmon could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr. Fisher said that the department researched changing the rule before taking action. "Some other subdivisions have gone through court hearings and their decisions to do it this way were upheld," he said.