The Alaska School Activities Association has decided to overturn the disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer who the Anchorage School District said was targeted during a meet last week.

ASD said in a release Tuesday it found the swimmer was singled-out based on how a school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.

"We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape," the district said. "This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary." 

The Dimond coach sent his appeal to the district, which presented the appeal to ASAA. By Tuesday evening, the organization sent out a release revealing they would be granting the request:

ASAA will be granting this request, for the following reasons. While the rules do allow for swimmers to be disqualified (see Rule 3.3 below), the rules clearly state that “when an official discovers a competitor wearing illegal attire…prior to the start of the heat/dive…the official shall…notify the coach of the competitor…”

All evidence gathered, including the statement provided by the official, indicated the official did not notify the coach prior to disqualifying the student. Therefore ASAA has determined, the disqualification was the result of the misapplication of the rule and as a result is being overturned. All team and individual points shall be restored to both the individual swimmer and the Dimond High School Swim team.

The decision, according to ASAA, was based on multiple 2019-2020 NFHS Swim and Dive Rule Book rules. ASAA also sent out the following guidance out to their swim and dive officials, according to the release:

To Swim and Dive Officials:

After multiple discussions with the NFHS, in order to properly implement Rule 3.3.2 (Uniforms) on page 24 of the 2019-20 NFHS Swim and Dive Rules Book, the following must be considered.

• Is the lack of coverage the result of an intentional action by the swimmer?

The rule was put in place to curtail swimmers from intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in such a manner as to expose their buttock.

ASAA believes students are not intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in this manner. Therefore, we believe the best course of action in implementing this rule is to:

1. Assume school issued uniforms are legal and will remain so.
2. Upon observing a potential swimsuit coverage issue, notify the coach as directed in Rule 3.3.2 Penalties 1 and 2

ASAA very much appreciates the efforts of our Swim and Dive officials in helping schools and this Association conduct Swim and Dive competitions. We hope this direction will help you in your duties.

 

Meagan Kowatch, the mother of the swimmer, says ASAA's decision is a start but more is needed.

"It's a commendable start but this is not going to end here if this is all they've got," she said. "We're going to end up with a lawsuit. So, we're optimistic that conditions are going to get better but at this point it's just not enough."

Kowatch wants an apology from ASAA — something that was not included in its decision to overturn the disqualification.

"ASAA needs to be held accountable for what happened to [my daughter]," she said.

ASD Senior Director of Secondary Education Kersten Johnson-Struempler said the school district launched an immediate investigation and will do more to make sure their students feel safe.

"We really want kids to be judged on the merit of their play on a field, or a pool, or a court, whatever their sport is," she said. "We don't really have any desire for kids to feel like they're being body shamed or judged because of the shape of their body or size. We really want them to be fully engaged in those activities and only concentrating on their sport and nothing else."

The school district said it wants the official to be decertified for their decision and the swimsuit rule revised. There was no mention of ASAA's response to these request in their release.

Scott Gross and Kayla Heffner contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: KTVA has decided not to identify the student athlete at the request of the family. 

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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