Two boys have been denied an opportunity to try out for the Bowie Senior High School girls volleyball team, apparently making reverse sexual discrimination an issue in Maryland school athletics for the first time, according to state school officials.
The boys, Scott Montgomery, 16, a junior, and David Fuhrman, 15, a sophomore, decided to try out for the team because none of the schools in the county has a boys volleyball program.
The boys were told they could not try out for the girls team because of a state school board bylaw that went into effect July 1, 1977.
The effect of that bylaw is to exclude boys from girls' sports programs and, according to state school spokesman Gus Crenson, the bylaw was written as "a corrective action . . . to Title IX." Title IX, part of the Education Act enacted by Congress in 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in federally aided education programs and activities. If affects virtually all high school and college athletic programs.
When told that state rules prevented them from trying out for the team, the two boys wrote to State School Superintendent David Hornbeck, asking him to reconsider the state's bylaw. They have not received an answer.
"I think the boys understand the schools' viewpoint," said Cathy Montgomery, Scott's mother. "But they also want very badly to work on their volleyball skills so they can go on and play at a higher level when they're older. That's why they would like to see what the competition is like."
The bylaw reads in part: "No student shall be excluded on the basis of sex from overall equal opportunities to participate in athletic programs.
"Should a school sponsor a team in a particular sport for members of one sex, but sponsor no such team for members of the opposite sex and prior to July 1, 1975, overall opportunity for members of the excluded sex has been limited, the excluded sex must be allowed to try out for the team offered."
"The key phrase is 'prior to July 1, 1975,'" Crenson said. "It means that the bylaw applies only to girls because prior to that time they were the only ones who were not given an equal opportunity to participate in all sports."
Crenson said Hornbeck had supported the bylaw and added, "He has no desire to see boys competing on girls teams." Hornbeck is out of town and could not be reached for comment.
"I think it is worth pursuing with the state board but it isn't something I would take into court," Cathy Montgomery said. "The boys have played on a community team where they have to travel crosstown for half an hour to practice at night. They really love the game. But this might not be the best way."
Wayne Fuhrman, David's father, was more emphatic. "We'd definitely be willing to go into court with this, we'll make as much noise as we have to," he said. "This is a silly policy. Policies like these are made to be changed."