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Hearing Referee Asks $30,000 For Boy In Volleyball Suit

November 6, 1986

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ The Traverse City School District violated state anti-discrimination laws when it barred a boy from playing on girls’ volleyball teams, and should pay him $30,000, a hearing officer ruled.

Diane Smith, a hearing referee for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, recommended the award to Jonathon Keenan for ″mental and emotional distress″ suffered when he was barred from the fifth, sixth and seventh grade girls’ volleyball teams.

She also recommended the district be forced to admit boys to all girls’ volleyball teams or form boys’ volleyball teams.

The commission meets next month and can accept, reject or modify the referee’s decision.

The decision Friday stemmed from a civil rights complaint filed in 1984 by the 13-year-old’s father, Tim Keenan.

Jonathon Keenan said he didn’t understand why it took 2 1/2 years for a decision on the case.

″I think they should have a separate team for boys,″ he said. ″If there isn’t one, we should be able to play together without a second thought. They had to make a big deal about it. It isn’t that big. I just wanted to play volleyball.″

The elder Keenan also had filed a federal lawsuit and complaints with the federal Civil Rights Commission.

In March 1985, U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen in Detroit sided with the school district and refused to order the reinstatement of boys to the girls’ team. The U.S. Department of Civil Rights also concluded that the district’s actions did not violate federal law.

Smith’s decision was based on a state law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, said Assistant Attorney General Diane Rubin. ″Volleyball usually is reserved for girls, and the Michigan High School Athletic Association does not acknowledge the existence of boy’s volleyball.

″This could be a very significant decision.″

″It’s such a relief to have someone else confirm that we’re doing the right thing,″ Tim Keenan said.

Smith also recommended that the Michigan High School Athletic Association re-evaluate its policy banning boy’s volleyball as an interscholastic sport.

School administrators declined comment on the ruling.

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