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Volunteer's request for men's volleyball club hampered by discrimination policy

Jeff Bobo • Sep 13, 2018 at 1:21 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Volunteer High School might not be allowed to start a men's volleyball club this spring because the school system’s extracurricular activity policy bans clubs the discriminate by gender.

On Sept. 6 the Hawkins County Board of Education tabled a request by Volunteer to start a men's volleyball club that would compete during the spring in non-sanctioned matches against other Big Seven Conference schools.

Board chairman Bob Larkins noted, "As we all know, Mens' Volleyball at the collegiate level is big. We don't have a men's athletic volleyball sport at this time."

High schools supervisor Wes Smith presented the request to the BOE last week, adding that athletic directors in the Big Seven Conference recently voted to start men's volleyball as a club sport.

Men’s volleyball wouldn't be sanctioned by the TSSAA, and it would likely involve a short season in the spring, with matches a couple nights per week; and there would be no district or state tournament.

But, Smith noted that offering men's volleyball as a club would violate the district's extracurricular activity policy which prohibits clubs that discriminate by gender.

Gender discrimination is also prohibited by federal law, so it's a hurdle that each of the Big Seven conference schools would have to surpass.

Smith couldn't say what other schools are doing, but he told the BOE he'd contacted the Tennessee School board Association for guidance.

"The cleanest way to offer this would be to offer it as another sport," Smith told the BOE. "To have a team. Whether that included a supplement for the coach or not would be up to the board to determine. Could we have a spring volleyball club and open it to all students? Sure we can. I don't think that was the intent of the athletic directors. I think they were looking for a men's volleyball program. They already have lady's volleyball in the fall."

In voting to table the request the board also asked Smith to research options for approving men’s volleyball and report back to the board.

Smith said he will also gauge student interest in a men's volleyball team to see if it is a sustainable program at any of the high schools.

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