By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
DALMATIA — The Valley is reacting to a federal judge’s ruling that a Line Mountain seventh-grade girl can wrestle on the school’s team, despite objections from the district.
Monday, U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the school district from taking any action that would interfere with Audriana Beattie’s efforts to participate on the same terms as boys.
Brann found the district’s policy to be “overinclusive” because it prevents females from wrestling when they may be equally strong or stronger than some boys on an individual basis.
He also found the district failed to establish that girls are at a greater risk of sexual harassment than are boys. The district could not articulate any specific instances of males inappropriately touching females while participating in wrestling, he said.
Repeated attempts to reach Line Mountain representatives, including superintendent David Campbell, were unsuccessful.
The Beatties’ attorneys, Philadelphia-based Terry Fromson of the Women’s Law Project and Abbe F. Fletman of Flaster/Greenberg PC, issued a joint statement saying Audriana is excited to be on the team.
“We are very pleased that Audriana will have the opportunity to pursue her passion for wrestling on her school’s wrestling team,” Fromson said.
According to their attorneys, the Beatties, of Herndon, are not issuing any statements about the ruling.
While there are no current female wrestlers on the Shikellamy team, head coach John Supsic said the team would allow any interested female wrestle.
“It’s the way the sport is today,” he said.
Supsic said he’s never seen “anything inappropriate” happen between a female wrestler and a male wrestler and that gender doesn’t really matter out on the mat.
“When you’re out there, it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, you’re just out there to win,” he said.
Shikellamy currently doesn’t have any female wrestlers on its high school team, but there are a couple of girls at the elementary level, Supsic said.
Milton has a girl on the junior high wrestling team, and high school coach Mike Snyder said girls are becoming more and more interested in the sport.
“It is becoming more popular for females to want to wrestle and I think now is the best time of any to ... start to develop clubs and avenues for female wrestlers to work with one another and develop their skills,” he said.
Women’s wrestling is an Olympic-level sport and Snyder said he supports any way for young females to hone their skills.
“There needs to be a ladder for them to achieve their goals in their sport and if (school wrestling) is the avenue for that, more power to them,” he said.
Wrestling fans across the Valley also voiced support for Audriana, including a former wrestler who had a female teammate.
Jayson Mitch, of Selinsgrove, said that during his eighth grade year on the wrestling team, he had a female teammate. While it was a little awkward at first, the girl reassured Mitch that she was OK with the moves and maneuvers.
“She would say, ‘It’s fine, it’s wrestling, your hands have to go places where they wouldn’t normally go. They may have to be in awkward positions,’” Mitch said.
The teammate also told Mitch, who often practiced with her, not to take it easy on her.
“She said one day she was going to be on a mat with a guy who wasn’t going to take it easy on her,” he said.
That really made an impression on Mitch.
“It just showed me women are as tough as men,” he said.
Commenters on the Daily Item’s Facebook page also voiced support for the decision.
“My daughter is 8 and loves to wrestle - why does she need to be in a different league because of her sex?” Janelle Kessler said. “If the child and parent enter the sport they know what is to be expected - let her wrestle.”
Lena Schooley said her son has wrestled girls.
“My son has been a wrestler since elementary school, he has had to face a few female wrestlers here and there,” she said. “Let me tell you she wrestled her heart out and was no different than a male wrestler ... I faced the same kind of scrutiny a long time ago when I was in the Army and they just started co-ed training. It makes the person stronger in what they are doing, no matter what gender they are.”
However, some people disagreed with the judge’s decision.
“I just have some reservations about this, some of those positions can get really crude,” Janie Bickhart Kessler said.