One doesn’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth. But what do you do when your son receives a generous gift, and your daughter’s overlooked?

In essence, that’s what’s happened in Roseburg with plans to replace the dirt and grass at Legion Field in Stewart Park with artificial turf.

The field is on city property and leased to the American Legion Earle B. Stewart Post 16, which sponsors the Dr. Stewart’s baseball team and helps field two other baseball teams in the summer. During the school year, Post 16 leases the field to Roseburg High School and Umpqua Valley Christian School. RHS also leases the city-owned softball field next door.

Softball teams use fields of different dimensions than baseball teams do and could not play games on the turf at Legion Field. The softball team could potentially practice on the turf and play on the dirt and grass field, but that is not an ideal solution.

At the moment the girls use a field that has to be covered with a tarp, and it can be a half-hour project to remove the tarp before practice can begin.

The American Legion Baseball Commission is currently fundraising $750,000 to turf the baseball field. It is a private group. It’s not connected with the schools, and it’s under no obligation to provide funds for turfing the softball field, though it has expressed a desire to see those fields turfed as well.

When the boys use that newly turfed Legion Field, is it unfair to the girls?

We send a powerful message to our girls in the way we choose to value — or not value — their goals and dreams and aspirations. Historically, we as a society unabashedly told girls they were less valuable than boys. A few decades ago many of us began to question whether it was OK to tell the daughters, the mothers, the sisters, the wives that we claimed to love that they were worth less than our sons, fathers, brothers and husbands.

It’s been a long, tortuous process to work out what needs to be done to change our old misogynistic ways. We’re not done yet.

But one early outgrowth of that nationwide soul searching was the passage of Title IX in 1972. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender in education programs that receive federal financial assistance, which includes athletics. And it’s in athletics where problems like these tend to crop up. It’s unlikely that a donor would give a gift of science equipment exclusively to be used by boys, for example.

But girls’ and boys’ athletic teams are separate, and it’s easy to introduce inequality because of it. Especially when they play on different fields.

It’s the school district’s obligation to ensure equal education, so ultimately it’s the school who must step up to the plate. We were glad to hear that they contacted Title IX experts about this issue before we began looking into it.

The best solution to this problem we’ve heard is to begin fundraising to turf the softball field at Stewart Park that’s used by the girls. We should perhaps consider ourselves lucky that equality in this case comes at, comparatively, a bargain. The cost of turfing the softball field is about one-third that of turfing the baseball field, or about $250,000.

It’s not fair, though, to ask the school’s softball coach to shoulder all the responsibility for this project. Here’s hoping he’ll find people in our community ready and willing to lend a hand.

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