Student, parents appeal to school board for right to play volleyball
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Independent School District Board of Trustees held a special meeting Monday afternoon to address a Level III Grievance brought by a CCISD student, Anna Beamesderfer, and her parents, Brett and Carla Beamesderfer.
The board was to consider and appeal to the administration’s decision to partially grant and partially deny the Beamesderfers’ complaint at Level II.
The family’s complaint alleged discrimination and retaliation by coaches Cari Lowery and Jennifer Wilson against Anna Beamesderfer for not allowing her to sign up for the UIL volleyball class.
The issue began when Anna, an 8th grade student, wanted to sign up for volleyball without taking the UIL class period, because she was taking an additional Band class. Anna wants to be a military band director and needs to know how to identify and play and teach all of the different instruments, according to her mother.
During Monday’s meeting, it was revealed that Anna was not allowed to even try out for the eighth-grade volleyball team and was never told prior to tryouts on the first day of school that by not being enrolled in a UIL class period, she would not be allowed to try out.
The Beamesderfers argued that because the Level I Grievance response was not recorded, Director of PEIMS and Student Services Kelly Avritt, who was the Level II Grievance Officer, was unable to fully verify what happened during the Level I Grievance, and thus the response wasn’t thorough enough.
The Beamesderfers also argued that there was a Title IX violation. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
At the time Anna was denied the chance to try out and play on the volleyball team due to not being enrolled in a UIL period, boys were allowed to play on the football and boys basketball teams without being in a UIL period.
The girls’ volleyball program had a stipulation that requests like this would considered on a case-by-case basis, the Beamesderfers explained. But that never happened with Anna, according to Carla Beamesderfer.
“Up until we spoke with Dr. Welch in our first Level I meeting, no person talked to my kid about why she was not in UIL so therefore they neglected her case by case basis,” Beamesderfer said. “They didn’t give her the opportunity to explain, they just bumped her and that was it.”
The Beamesderfers also argued that there was no clear policy or guideline and in fact, the only mention of needing a UIL class period in connection with a sport was the course description, which said that a student “should” be in a UIL period but did not state it was a requirement. The UIL rules also state that they don’t have to in a class to participate in the sports, Beamesderfer said.
Beamesderfer also shared that Coach Wilson had said last year and this year that if a student didn’t play in eighth grade, their chances of playing in high school were “slim to none.” This led to Anna feeling defeated that she’d never play volleyball, Carla said. Anna currently plays in a club, the Waco Juniors Volleyball Club, and is a good player, she added.
“She did have a full schedule for what she wanted to do for her career in life and it is always promoted, and I’ve heard it many times from coaches and Coach Lowery herself, that they encourage the students to do all that they want and all that they can but now my kid is not being able to,” Beamesderfer said.
This also affected her chance to play basketball. At the beginning of the school year, Anna had worked out an agreement with the basketball coaches to be able to play without being in a UIL period, but in November, the Beamesderfers were sent an email stating there was a policy change and that she could no longer play without switching her band class for a UIL period.
Carla explained that they thought it was unfair that an A-Honor Roll student would be unable to participate when teachers are “being asked to bend over backwards to help students who are behavior problems or academic problems, so that they can play.”
The remedy sought by the Beamesderfers was that all students should be allowed to participate in any athletic program that does not conflict with UIL rules if they’re academically and athletically capable to meet the standards and requirements; that there be a policy with clear wording; and that the Title IX issue be addressed.
The board members had the opportunity to ask questions before they went into executive session behind closed doors to discuss what action to take.
Because the basketball issue was not part of the initial grievance, the board was unable to consider that when deciding.
Board President Joan Manning asked Anna whether anyone had counseled her during the course selection period and explained that because she had not chosen a UIL period, she would be unable to play volleyball. Anna said the first time someone told her that she would be unable to play or even tryout was the day of tryouts, which were held on the first day of school.
After discussing behind closed doors, the board reconvened in open session and Dr. Karen Harrison made a motion to partially grant and partially deny the remedy sought by the parents.
“Number one: We direct the superintendent to develop guidelines for student participation in UIL sports if they are unable to be in the UIL period. The guidelines will ensure the fair and equal treatment of both boy and girls who seek to be athletes at CCISD,” Harrison said. “Number 2: Once the guidelines have been developed by the superintendent, they will be provided to the current and future athletes and to parents of current athletes and posted on the CCISD website. The superintendent will provide an update to the board at the January 22 board meeting.”
The motion was seconded by Inez Faison and accepted by the board.
Brett Beamesderfer issued a statement to the Leader-Press the day after the meeting, saying that they are appreciative of the school board and thankful that they granted the remedies of their grievance and will be addressing their concerns with the course descriptions, UIL guidelines and Title IX.
“We have faith in the CCISD School Board, Dr. Burns, and the administration at CCISD to make the necessary and appropriate changes to guidelines, procedures and policies to prevent future misunderstandings,” Beamesderfer wrote.