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Landmark settlement ensures equivalent locker room benefits for female athletes in Hawaii, attornies say

A 2018 class-action lawsuit over a lack of locker rooms for female athletes at Hawaii’s largest public school has reached a settlement that attorneys say will ensure athletic gender equity at the high school.

The lawsuit alleged disparate treatment including stand-alone locker rooms only for boys and a failure to provide coaches for certain girls’ teams at Campbell High School in a Honolulu suburb.

The Hawaii Department of Education and the Oahu Interscholastic Association will hire an independent evaluator who will make sure girls at the school receive equivalent sports offerings and athletic benefits such as facilities and transportation, according to the settlement terms announced Tuesday by lawyers for the plaintiffs.

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The Hawaii settlement received preliminary approval last week.

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The settlement, which was reached earlier this month and received preliminary approval from a judge last week, also includes a seven-year compliance plan for monitoring and evaluating sports gender equity at the school, which will involve publicly available reports.

“In a state with a high proportion of students of color and an extremely high cost of living, the opportunities afforded to female athletes are all the more important and impactful,” Wookie Kim, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, which helped represent the girls, said in a statement.

The plaintiffs said they had to resort to changing in teachers’ closets, in the bathroom of a nearby Burger King or even on the practice field.

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The lawsuit also said boys’ sports programs were well-equipped at Campbell, but the girls’ water polo and soccer programs doesn’t have adequate gear and facilities, and that coaches for girls’ teams are generally paid less than boys’ team coaches.

The lead plaintiff, Ashley Badis, won a Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award for her role in the case. “I’m happy that future students won’t have to go through what my teammates and I did,” she said in a statement.

The state Department of the Attorney General said it could not comment due to “further procedural issues that have to be addressed with the court.”

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