Judge rules N.H. girl can play with the boys

Published On December 20, 2012 | By Jill Saftel

A New Hampshire case proved Title IX is alive and well this week when a judge ruled junior Shelby Herrington could continue playing on the Bishop Brady High School boys hockey team she had been a member of since her freshman year.

According to The Associated Press, Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara barred the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) from enforcing its ruling that Herrington could no longer play on the boys team because Bishop Brady this year formed a cooperative girls team with Trinity High School of Manchester.

However, the issue here was only one of equivalent activity, not equality between the two teams. Part of McNamara’s decision was based on the fact that the girls’ team practices less than the boys’ team.

“Whether boys and girls hockey are equivalent activities and whether Ms. Herrington’s skills will be diminished by playing on the cooperative team is not the issue,” McNamara said.

Herrington’s lawyer, Robert Carey, argued that boys hockey is a different sport, especially in terms of speed and checking. Herrington’s ultimate goal is a spot on the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team, and boys hockey would better prepare her for playing Division I collegiate women’s hockey. It’s a case difficult to argue with for anyone who’s ever watched boys and girls hockey.

But NHIAA bylaws state that teams of mixed gender are prohibited unless the school doesn’t offer an equivalent activity for girls.

The NHIAA stated in court documents that permitting Herrington to remain on the boys team would “denigrate” the nascent girls hockey team. In ruling denying her a waiver to play with the boys, the association said her college scholarship opportunities were “incidental.”

It’s unclear whether the NHIAA will appeal McNamara’s decision or whether Herrington will face this battle again to remain on the team for her senior year, but at least for now, she’ll continue to play hockey with the team she’s been a part of for two years.

Herrington’s older sister and three brothers all played hockey for Bishop Brady before her.

“It’s a family tradition you might say,” her father said. “One we’re anxious to sustain.”

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.