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Lexington AD Suspended for Doctored Email on New Middlesex League Basketball Schedules

A Lexington parent caught most of the blame, but it was a now-suspended AD’s doctored email that spurred the Middlesex League’s Title IX-driven decision to discontinue its doubleheader scheduling format for boys and girls basketball.

The story went something like this: A Lexington parent was threatening to sue, so the Middlesex League deep-sixed its doubleheader scheduling format, which had been in place since the mid-1990s. (Arlington High, along with Wilmington, joined the Middlesex League last year.)

That was the yarn spun at the start of the 2012-2013 basketball season. It was fodder for players, parents, fans and bystanders alike, and .

Most likely, it was reported that way because that’s how the coaches and athletic directors told it to reporters and editors. And most likely that’s how they told the story because that’s how they heard it themselves.

Except only that’s not how it went down.

It’s true that Lexington resident Kathryn Robb is at the bottom of it. For two years Robb has been pushing the envelope around Title IX and urging school officials to give the boys and girls basketball teams equal opportunity in the 7 p.m., “prime time” spot of their doubleheaders.

Where the narrative diverges from reality is around how Robb went about achieving that end.

According to documents released earlier this week, Robb never threatened legal action against Lexington, let alone the Middlesex League. In fact, she was closer to the opposite. (Read Robb's email attached above.)

Those two points were the emphasis added by Lexington Athletic Director Naomi Martin in what she now describes as an effort to “bolster” the case for Title IX compliance in her own correspondence with Middlesex League ADs, including Arlington's. (Read Martin’s email attached above.)

Fact and fiction began separating after a FOIA request in mid-December. And, since last weekend, Martin has been given a week of unpaid leave, she emailed an apology to Robb and Lexington’s superintendent has sent an email to Middlesex League ADs to “correct the record.”

(Read the superintendent’s letter and Martin’s apology attached above.)

SORTING OUT THE DETAILS

A mother of five and basketball-lifer, Kathryn Robb has been beating the Title IX drum for at least two years, saying the girls basketball team was too often the opening act of doubleheaders while the boys team enjoyed the “prime time” spot.

In an email to LHS Principal Laura Lasa sent Nov. 14, 2012, Robb expressed her dismay over Lexington High basketball's continued noncompliance with Title IX. Robb wrote that she may be what school officials consider a "pain in the ass parent,” and described the tension between her and the AD as "practically palpable."

Robb did not threaten to file suit with Office of Civil Rights, nor did she threaten to go to the Globe, nor did she mention the Middlesex League. But Naomi Martin’s Nov. 15 group email the Middlesex League athletic directors says she did.

According to a press release from Robb’s attorneys, Martin’s email to the Middlesex League ADs—which does not mention Robb by name—contains seven false references to the Middlesex League and 18 additional discrepancies. In some places, Martin misrepresents the parent’s position, and in others she fabricates content presented as though it’s a direct quote.

For instance, this:

I provided you and the LHS athletic administration with useful and clear information on the law of Title IX (federal statute and case law). I offered reasonable solutions. And, I waited patiently for LHS to be in compliance.

Became this:

I provided you and the LHS athletic administration with useful and clear information on the law of Title IX (federal statute and case law). I offered reasonable solutions. And, I waited patiently for LHS to be in compliance. The time is now, and the paperwork is prepared for the Boston Globe and for the OCR. I eagerly await the response of the Middlesex League and Lexington High School.

The crux of Martin’s email was requesting permission from the league to allow Lexington to play a single-gender basketball schedule in order to bring the program in compliance with Title IX. Permission was granted on Nov. 20, and the decision was upheld Dec. 4, despite student athletes appealing to the ADs with another option.

As the season got started, Robb started catching flack over the new schedule. So much so that she’s been staying away from the games – allegedly at the request of her daughter who plays on the LHS girls team. A common question, she says, was “Why would you do this, Kathryn?”

All the while, Robb maintained that she never wanted this change—her preferred option would have been to keep the doubleheader format with 7 p.m. start times divvied up evenly between the boys and girls—and that she never threatened legal action.

According to one of Robb’s attorneys, she first saw Martin’s doctored email on Nov. 30, when an angry coach from another school showed it to her. In mid-December, Robb’s legal team began using public records requests to obtain access to this and other emails around Title IX and the scheduling changes, the attorney said.

Around that same time, Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash became aware of the discrepancies between Robb’s email and the way her email was quoted in Martin’s communication to the Middlesex League ADs.

Upon looking into the matter, Ash “made a determination that a public apology was appropriate,” Karen Schwartzman, a communications consultant retained by the Lexington Public Schools earlier in the 2012-2013 school year, wrote in an email to Patch.

Last Saturday, Jan. 19, Martin emailed her apology to Robb. That same day, Ash sent an email to the same audience of athletic directors in which he sought to “correct the record” and called Martin’s actions “unacceptable.”

Via Schwartzman, the district declined to comment further with regard to the apology or the timing of it. In addition to the apology, Martin has been placed on a one-week unpaid leave, which starts today, Jan. 24.

In a press release, Robb said she was not satisfied with Martin’s apology, which she thinks does not offer “a meaningful explanation of her motives and action.”

“I am a forgiving person by nature,” said Robb, “But I fail to see why the need to achieve gender equality in interscholastic basketball had to be ‘bolstered’ or why it had to be bolstered by maliciously targeting a parent who has devoted 20 years of volunteer service in youth sports to this community.” 

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