KAHULUI - Two Baldwin High School softball players and their coach said Saturday that they were thrilled that a federal judge had made an initial ruling in their favor on a lawsuit that claims gender discrimination against girls' athletics.
The players said all they wanted was a field comparable to facilities provided to boys' teams, and that they believed they were standing up for future generations of female athletes by filing the suit.
Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Trisha Nobriga, a senior who plays third base for the team, said the ruling caught her by surprise.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Baldwin High School softball coach Joe Duran, a plaintiff in the suit, answers questions Saturday.
"I was very shocked the judge was on our side," she said. "I was very pleased that our whole team was heard. I just was very stoked."
U.S. District Judge David Ezra on Friday said there is an "obvious disparity" between the field provided to the girls' softball team and Maehara Stadium, where Baldwin's boys' baseball team plays.
He granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring that the girls' playing field immediately be brought up to standard. He also ordered that an expert inspect both the girls' former field and the field where they now play, and prepare a report on how soon each could be improved or made ready for use.
The ruling responded to a suit filed just one day earlier, alleging that the county and Department of Education had violated Title IX, federal legislation that promotes gender equality in school athletics.
Nobriga said Saturday that she joined the suit because she had studied Title IX for her senior project, and knew about the law authored in part by the late Maui-born U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.
"I really wanted to get involved because I knew a lot about it," she said. "I wanted to have my voice spoken."
She said she wasn't expecting the county to build a facility the size of Maehara Stadium in order to accommodate the team but would be satisfied if she thought girls were being treated equally.
"I feel we don't have to get exactly the same as the baseball boys, but that at least some of our needs could be met," she said.
She expressed strong support for coach Joe Duran, who is also named as a plaintiff.
"As a male, he stepped up for Title IX," Nobriga said. "I really appreciate what he's done."
The 2007 state champion team gathered to meet with reporters Saturday at its current field in Keopuolani Park after defeating Lahainaluna 9-4 in Lahaina.
Pitcher Kaitlyn Watanabe, who is not a plaintiff, said she supports the suit 100 percent.
"We wanted to fight for what was really right," she said. "We want to be equal with the boys."
Watanabe, a 17-year-old junior, said the field where her team played was not as good as the facility provided to male baseball players.
"The boys are practicing in a really nice stadium," she said. "Everybody watches them, and nobody knows about us here."
Two other player plaintiffs, Tayler Shimizu and Julia Kinoshita, would not be available to reporters, according to a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, which is representing the plaintiffs.
Parents Dennis and Susan Nobriga, Wesley Shimizu and Wayne Kinoshita are also plaintiffs in the suit.
Duran said Saturday that he pursued legal action after he believed his complaints to the county and DOE were "pushed to the wayside."
"I felt it was the only step for us," he said.
He said he was pleased that the judge ruled in his team's favor Friday but would wait to see what would happen next in the case.
"The next step for us is just to finish up the season, focus on our softball," he said.
Duran said he was proud of his team.
"It seems to be a distraction the girls have turned into a positive thing," he said. "We have bunch of good girls, with parents who are supportive."
"This is pumping us up," she said. "This is motivating us to do our best."
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.