High School track members suspended after sports bra controversy

Members of the Albany High School girls’ track and field team in upstate New York received a suspension after promoting a petition to wear sports bras instead of shirts during practice, according to the Times Union.

Albany School District Athletic Director Ashley Chapple reportedly asked members of the girls’ track team wearing sports bras to leave practice last week.

The athletes, who complied with Chapple’s request, said they believed practicing while wearing sports bras during a stretch of hot weather was appropriate since their male counterparts were allowed to go shirtless. 

“Wednesday, she confronted us about wearing sports bras and saying we couldn’t [just] wear sports bras because we have male coaches,” Jordan Johnson, a standout sophomore sprinter for the Falcons, told the Times Union. “She said that before and she said us working out is a distraction. … We have to cover up because male coaches are around.”

Afterward, Johnson started a petition, titled, “Stop Gender Biased Dress Codes: Allow the Girls Track Team to wear Sports Bras.”

Albany School District Athletic Director Ashley Chapple
Albany School District Athletic Director Ashley Chapple
albanyschools.org

The petition includes a photo of the girls’ high school track team posing in sports bras while flexing their arm muscles.

“Support the Albany high girls track team as we protest the gender biased dress code,” the petition’s description reads. “The athletic administration staff is attempting to exclude us from our sport as a result of the misinterpretation of the dress code. We’re being punished for practicing in sports bras in the presence of male coaches, while the boys team was asked nicely to put shirts back on and was not punished.”

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The petition has garnered more than 2,700 signatures as of Wednesday.

After the practice incident, the girls track team came back to the school to watch a lacrosse game. Three security guards and Chapple were waiting and told the girls’ track team they could not attend.

As a result, 13 members of the girls’ track and field team were suspended on Friday, which left just two members of the team to compete in the Shenendehowa Invitational later that night. Subsequently, Albany did not score a single point as a team at the event.

The next day, Chapple hand-delivered a letter to each suspended athlete, explaining the discipline. According to the Times Union, the letters stated the student athletes used vulgar language during their exchange with Chapple and security at the lacrosse game.

Johnson, along with other members of the track team, including Kayla Huba and Alexis Arango, claimed that no foul language was used.

The letter from Chapple stated in the final paragraph that each suspended athlete “poses a continuing danger to persons or property or an ongoing threat of disruption to the academic and athletic process.”

The paper reported that parents of the student athletes were unhappy with the letter. Rosario Balarin, the mother of Arango, said, told the Times Union, that she found the language “very disconcerting.”

Albany High School
Albany High School
Google Maps

Albany High School officials held a meeting with the suspended team members — without allowing parents to attend — this past Monday afternoon. Twelve members of the team have been reinstated and will compete Wednesday in a Suburban Council meet at Averill Park.

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Ron Lesko, director of communications and operations for Albany school district, confirmed the suspensions “due to inappropriate and disrespectful behavior directed toward an administrator” in a statement Monday afternoon.

“Their suspension was in no way related to wardrobe,” said Lesko. “It was entirely related to their inappropriate conduct, and in alignment with our Student Code of Conduct. We addressed the matter related to practice attire with male and female members of the Albany High track and field teams last week. The information communicated to both groups of student-athletes was the same – that their practice attire did not align with our Student Code of Conduct.

“As a result of Monday’s meeting, members of the girls’ track and field team have agreed to participate on the committee that reviews the Student Code of Conduct for next school year. That work will include a review of the sections related to student attire.”