School district wants official decertified following swimsuit controversy
Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop said a rule about swimsuit coverage that got a Dimond High School swimmer disqualified is biased and so is the official that made the call.
The school district appealed the ruling Tuesday and the Alaska School Activities Association responded quickly. They agreed to give the student her win, give the Dimond team their points back and review the rule about swimsuit coverage. But so far the association hasn’t ruled on another of the district’s requests — that the official who made the call be decertified.
In a press conference Wednesday, Bishop said an investigation by the district turned up a pattern of discrimination against the family. She said the same official warned the girl’s younger sister at a meet last year that her swimsuit was also showing too much.
“She and her sister were the only athletes to receive any attention as to the fit of their suits and our assessment was that this decision by the volunteer judge was discriminatory,” Bishop said.
She added that none of the Dimond teammates who were wearing the exact same swimsuits were addressed for their attire and concluded that the girls were unfairly targeted because of their body type.
Billy Strickland, the head of ASAA, said it’s too soon to reach that conclusion. Strickland said a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine if any action should be taken against the volunteer official.
“There’s a due process involved here and we will do our job now to investigate this,” he said.
“We’ve heard from one side of the story, so to speak, now," Strickland continued. "We’ve got to verify those statements and then we have to go out and see, is there another side to the story here that would explain the actions in a way?”
Strickland said he hoped to make the determination in about a week.
In a statement given exclusively to KTVA Thursday, Jill Blackstone — the official in question — said neither ASD nor ASAA asked for her side of the story.
"Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) and the Anchorage School District (ASD) adopted and asked swim officials to enforce the National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS) rules. As meet referee I observed an athlete who did not comply with these rules, which resulted in the required disqualification. Despite claims to the contrary by ASAA and ASD, I followed the specified protocol described in the governing NFHS rules to process the disqualification. The School District has unfairly labeled me as 'heavy-handed' and 'biased.' During the last six days, neither ASAA nor ASD has asked for an explanation from me about the events that led to the disqualification or asked me if I had a defense to the accusations that have been leveled at me.
ASD and ASAA should review rules prior to asking officials to uphold them, and impartially hear all sides when disputes arise. Due process is important for all of us."
Blackstone also said she had not been contacted regarding accusations she targeted the sisters.
On Thursday, Strickland said ASAA had seen an explanation in from Blackstone explaining her decision that Friday. He said the organization plans to reach out to her about the other allegations prior to deciding on a decertification.
Alan Brown, a spokesperson for ASD, said the district received the explanation from ASAA on Monday. Brown also said Blackstone called the district Tuesday by phone, in a conversation Brown said touched on Friday's disqualification.
Brown also said Thursday evening that the responsibility ultimately lies with ASAA regarding Blackstone's statement and the investigation into possible decertification.
In the meantime, the family is asking for an apology. Strickland said he’s not sure exactly what ASAA would apologize for, since their only involvement was certifying the official who worked the meet.
Bishop said she has spoken to the swimmer's mother and given a personal apology to the family.
John Thompson contributed to this report.
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