Think Out Loud

Salem-Keizer high school aims to improve equity to girls sports

By Allison Frost (OPB)
Dec. 20, 2022 1:39 a.m. Updated: Dec. 28, 2022 7:36 p.m.

Broadcast: Tuesday, Dec. 20

In this file photo, the shadow of a player on a high school JV girls softball team is pictured in this file photo.

In this file photo, the shadow of a player on a high school JV girls softball team is pictured in this file photo.

Courtesy of mark6mauno/Flickr


At Salem’s Sprague High School, there have long been stark differences between the resources for girls softball and boys baseball. These included inequities in the fields, locker rooms, equipment, coaching time and more. Earlier this year a federal civil rights Title IX investigation was launched, which resulted in the district entering a voluntary resolution agreement. The district says it was more than happy to agree since it had already begun investing in girls sports as it aims for parity with boys sports. Salem-Keizer school district’s Coordinator of Athletics and Activities Lara Tiffin tells us about those improvements and what they will mean for students.

This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. We start today with the stark differences between resources for girls and boys athletics at Salem’s Sprague High School; in particular, between the softball and baseball teams. The district says it was already addressing these discrepancies even before a federal civil rights Title IX investigation. Lara Tiffin is a Salem Keiser School District’s coordinator of athletics and activities. She joins us now to talk about the district’s voluntary resolution agreement and what it will mean for students going forward. Laura Tiffin, welcome to the show.

Lara Tiffin: Thank you for inviting me.

Miller: This federal Title IX investigation was launched after someone, or someones, filed a complaint about disparities in the girls softball and boys baseball programs. Can you outline those differences? What was at the heart of this initial complaint?

Tiffin: Some of the inequities that were listed involved the practice and competitive facilities. So for example, the dugouts, the landscaping of the fields, pitching bullpens, scoreboards, hitting barns, schedules as well as equipment inequities.

Miller: How did these inequities or disparities develop over time?

Tiffin: That’s a really good question. I think there were multiple variables that contributed to them. And to me, the important piece at this point is just moving forward to make sure that they’re corrected and then also that we make sure that whatever the contributing factors were that they don’t happen again.

Miller: I understand that desire to correct them and move forward, but it seems like one of the parts of moving forward is figuring out what led to them. What do you see as some of these reasons?

Tiffin: I think possibly one reason may be that there was very consistent coaching staff in one of the sports and not as consistent in the other, which then leads to the development of systems that work a lot better. So I think that that had something to do with it. And we’re hopeful that even if there is a lot of turnover in one area versus the other, that we have better systems in place to make sure that the facilities and the equipment and the scheduling aren’t impacted by that turnover.

Miller: How different are the facilities themselves?

Tiffin: Well, I’d say that they are different. I think that, for example, the baseball dugout is enclosed while the girls dugouts are not. There’s a space in the back wall that keeps it from being entirely enclosed. There is power in the baseball dugout. There was not power in the softball dugout. There is now. I think there is a difference in just the appearance of the landscaping at the outfield fence. So I’d say that the differences are there and I think that’s one of the reasons why, prior to completion of the investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, the district expressed an interest in voluntarily resolving the complaint. I think a lot of the work was being done already to resolve the inequities prior to the complaint being submitted. So, to me it’s just the right thing to do, to make sure that we are addressing the inequities and correcting them.

Miller: What work was already being done before this complaint and before the federal investigation?

Tiffin: One of the pieces to the complaint was the lack of team rooms for girls as opposed to boys. And I think that’s something that you’ll find is pretty common in buildings that were built prior to Title IX. Sprague received quite a few renovations to their athletic facilities in a recent bond that Salem-Kaiser passed. And one of those was an addition of a girls team room too. And that is because that was something that was mentioned in the complaint, that was something that was already being addressed in the bond, and now already is in place at Sprague, a girls team room. So that would be an example of one of the concerns that was being addressed quite a bit before the complaint went to OCR (Office of Civil Rights in the federal Department of Education).

Another one would be a brand new scoreboard that has been installed that was already in the works. An architect has been working on a schematic design to improve the entire softball facility and that also was in the works. I think progress is being made and I see the voluntary resolution agreement as just an opportunity, in my mind, to identify any existing inequities and then let’s rectify them.

Miller: Does this voluntary resolution agreement that the district came to with the Office of Civil Rights, require or codify new actions that the district is going to take in addition to what you were already working on?


Tiffin: Great question. Actually, the voluntary resolution agreement requires an assessment to be conducted of the facilities, the equipment and supplies and the coaching. Right now, that assessment process is happening and in that assessment process, if we identify any new concerns, then we will definitely be addressing those, in addition to the concerns that were in the original complaint.

Miller: And just to be clear, that investigation that you’ll be doing or that query, is not just about softball versus baseball. I assume it’s for all athletics in the district?

Tiffin: Correct. Actually, this voluntary resolution agreement is specifically for the assessment of the facilities, equipment and supplies at Sprague High School for all of the athletic facilities, not just baseball and softball.

Miller: Will the district’s focus be only on this one high school or will you be looking at other high schools and other middle schools?

Tiffin: Yes, absolutely. That actually is a benefit of my position, that we are reviewing with folks in the facility department, our high school and our middle school athletic facilities, through a Title IX lens, which is, I feel, an honor to be in a position to be able to be a part of that.

Miller: Have you already heard anything from the community, from students, from parents, from teachers, from coaches about the changes that have already been in the works?

Tiffin: That’s part of the assessment process - to talk with some of the community members involved with softball. So yes, we have heard from them, more because we’ve initiated that contact. Some of the changes that are needed really aren’t quite as visible yet because I think some of the biggest changes that are necessary would be the dugouts and the landscaping of the field and those are scheduled to begin this upcoming summer. I think once those changes are happening in a more visible way, hopefully we’ll hear from our community.

Miller: You are not just a longtime teacher and administrator in the district, but you were a standout athlete there who went on to become, if I’m not mistaken, an All-American swimmer in college. What has this work been like, trying to get parity, trying to get equity between girls and boys athletics, given your own athletic career?

Tiffin: Well, thank you very much. I’m not sure about stand out, but . . .

Miller: I was wrong that you were an All-American?

Tiffin: I was an All-American.


Miller: Okay, well then I think that speaks for itself then.

Tiffin: Okay. But I think for me, I definitely benefited from Title IX, although I probably started athletic competition in 1976-1977. So I benefited from those who went before me greatly because I did not experience any Title IX-type discrimination in my swimming career when I was young or when I was in college. However, I did have friends who were involved in sports where they were at the beginning of girls being allowed to be involved in sports. For me, I think it’s been just an honor to be in this position and to be able to try to carry out what those before me started, and try to honor their legacy.

Miller: Sprague is just one high school among hundreds in this state. Do you have a sense for how common the kinds of inequities - that we’ve been talking about at Sprague - are across the state?

Tiffin: That’s a great question. And I actually am hoping to get involved in a conversation with other districts similar to our size to have that conversation. I think for schools that were built prior to 1972, the facility concerns are fairly common unless a district has been fortunate enough to pass a bond in recent years that allowed them to do some major renovations to their building. I think we still have some work to do, to be honest. Even with bond funds helping in that direction, I’d say it’s a common concern around the state, especially with schools that are over 50 years old.

Miller: Lara Tiffin, thanks very much.

Tiffin: Thank you very much.

Miller: Lara Tiffin is the coordinator of athletics and activities for the Salem-Keiser School District. She joined us to talk about the district’s efforts to bring parity between girls and boys athletics.

Contact “Think Out Loud®”

If you’d like to comment on any of the topics in this show, or suggest a topic of your own, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, send an email to, or you can leave a voicemail for us at 503-293-1983. The call-in phone number during the noon hour is 888-665-5865.