LOS ANGELES - Today, at 11:00 A.M., the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced the filing of a class-action lawsuit to end discriminatory treatment of girls' softball players in the City of La Puente. The legal complaint, filed by the ACLU/SC in federal court today, claims that the girls are "being denied equal and adequate access to City-owned resources made available to the local boys' baseball league, on the basis of their gender."

The case was filed by nine girls on behalf of all girls who play softball in the City of La Puente. The nine plaintiffs range in age from 9-17 years.

"This week, as we watch the nation's most competitive teams play in the World Series, we are putting the City on notice that boys aren't the only ones with big league dreams," said Ranjana Natarajan, staff attorney with the ACLU/SC. "The girls of La Puente deserve better than this - they deserve an equal playing field."

The suit documents the blatant inequality that exists between the facilities used by local boys' teams and girls' softball teams. For example, boys enjoy fields with level grass and dirt, bullpen areas, new and operational concession stands, stadium lighting for night games, metal bleachers, clean restrooms, paved parking lots, equipment storage space, scoreboards, functional sound systems, and are maintained at least in part by the City. The girls' fields lack each of these attributes.

The girls, their parents, and coaches have made repeated public requests to City officials, including the Mayor and City Council, for access to City-owned playing fields. The City has consistently denied these requests and failed to improve the girls' facilities.

"These girls face some daunting challenges in their communities," said Soly Perez, staff attorney with the ACLU/SC. "Whereas the average high school female drop out rate in the entire state is 2.5 percent, the drop out rate in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District is more than three times that amount at 7.7 percent. Experts agree that girls who participate in extracurricular activities, especially sports, substantially decrease their risk of dropping out of school. These girls have plenty of hurdles to overcome. Having to fight the City to gain the respect and equality they are legally entitled to should not be added to that list."

"Girls leave La Puente to play in other softball leagues because they have better facilities," said Amorette Avila, a 17 year-old pitcher on a team called Girls In Black. "If we had better facilities, we could play better and get noticed by recruiters. It would also help girls get softball scholarships."

"We're not asking for special treatment - we just want to play on nice, safe fields, just like the boys," she added.

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