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Youth league

NORTH CREEK - Local youth league officials backed off their recent policy of barring girls from playing baseball after they heard of a a pending investigation of the state Department of Human Rights into allegations of gender discrimination.

Johnsburg officials said at a town board meeting March 17 they were alarmed of the investigation into the practices of Johnsburg Youth Athletic Inc.

However, the group's officials attending the meeting vehemently denied that any violations were committed, and they questioned the town's jurisdiction in the matter due to the athletic league's not-for-profit status.

"I don't even see why we are making a big deal of this," JYAI spokesman Peter Olesheski said. "In no way will we make a public admission of guilt. What ruffles my feathers is that we are talking about this in front of the public."

Last month, Darlene and Don Ellsworth filed the complaint when JYAI Board of Directors prohibited the couple's daughter - Emma - from playing baseball, and said she could only play softball based solely to her gender.

"We pushed this because their policy was purely unfair," Darlene Ellsworth said.

Already, Emma has played four seasons of baseball with her male counterparts, she said.

This coming spring athletic season will mark the first year of an organized girls softball program at the Little League level in Johnsburg. Until now, girls up to the age of 12 played on inter-gender baseball teams since softball was not yet offered.

In planning for this season, the JYAI officials believed that if they did not pursue the segregated mandate, the softball program would never field a team due to lack of players, Olesheski said.

But following the notice of complaint, the JYAI reversed its policy and girls are now able to choose which sport they play.

Olesheski repeatedly argued that the town had no reason to be involved, stating that JYAI is a private entity.

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