Arundel High girl gets a JV team of her own Superintendent rules teen-ager may play baseball with boys

March 27, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Becky Carlson may keep playing baseball with the boys at Arundel High School.

The 14-year-old, who last week became one of a handful of girls to play high school baseball in Maryland, was allowed to stay on the squad by Anne Arundel's first female school superintendent.

"Ms. Carlson tried out for the junior varsity team, she was selected for that team, and she earned the right to have a position on the team," said Superintendent Carol S. Parham, ending a weeklong controversy.

The day before her first game, the county schools athletic coordinator tried to persuade the Gambrills girl to switch to softball.

However, she refused, playing Friday against Calvert Hall. She suited up Monday in the home opener against Old Mill, but didn't play.

Yesterday, Principal Midgie Sledge told Becky of Dr. Parham's decision moments before the school day ended, just in time for her to zip home and suit up in Arundel green and white for a scrimmage against Mount St. Joseph.

"Becky came running down the hill," said Evelyn Carlson, her mother. "She had this big smile on her face."

The Carlsons, who contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland for legal advice, were elated.

"It's like 20 years ago that a superintendent's job never would have been shared by a woman," Mrs. Carlson said. "Now she [Dr. Parham] can be a superintendent, and my daughter can play baseball."

Becky said that for days she was telling friends, as well as herself, that she would stay on the squad.

"I pretty much told everyone it was going in my favor so everyone would stop bugging me," the teen-ager said.

Still, after she got the news, she conceded, "Yeah, I was happy."

Becky's supporters ranged from her teammates to women on the Baltimore County police force and an elderly woman who played in the All-American Girls Baseball League more than 40 years ago.

Baseball coach Bernie Walter, who led Arundel to a record seven state Class 4A championships and a national title, said he didn't understand the fuss.

"We thought that girls were certainly allowed to try out for the team," he said. "If they can make the team, OK."

Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, was less certain.

Mr. Sparks said baseball should be open to girls in schools that don't have softball teams.

Where both sports are offered, the schools should be allowed to decide whether girls may play baseball, he said.

While the association could support either decision, its policy is to "counsel them into softball," said President Ron Belinko.

The policy helps ensure the viability of the sport and channel girls toward scholarships, he said.

Rick Wiles, Anne Arundel's athletic coordinator, had argued that by providing baseball and softball, the schools offered comparable programs that meet federal requirements.

But Susan Goering, legal director of the Maryland ACLU, said that misses the point.

"The state's own regulations say that girls should be given equal opportunity," Ms. Goering said. "They should be given the right to try out for a traditionally boys team."

She said the ACLU is "seriously considering" taking the case of Jennifer Whorton, a freshman at Flintstone High School who made the baseball team but was told by Allegany County school officials to play softball.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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