High school hockey players lose sex discrimination lawsuit in Portland

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PORTLAND — Boys from Deering High School and Casco Bay High School will not be playing hockey for Portland High School.

A judge ruled against A.J. Asbury, Anthony Verville and Jackson Stevens on Monday. The boys sued the Maine Principals Association, claiming MPA discriminated against them by not allowing them to play on the Portland hockey team after the Deering team dissolved last year.

Asbury and Verville attend Deering. Casco Bay students choose which high school they’ll play sports for in their freshman year. Stevens chose Deering, and along with Asbury and Verville, lost his ability to play hockey when the team dissolved.

However, a group of Deering girls were allowed to play on the new girls’ PHS team.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the decision,” said Preti Flaherty attorney Paul Greene, who represented the boys.

He said that there was an opportunity to appeal the decision, but that he did not think the boys would do that.

“The boys didn’t seem like they wanted to emotionally invest in that,” Greene said. “They were just proud of the fact that they had the guts to move forward. It was a great civic lesson for them.”

One of the arguments against allowing the boys to play for PHS was that it would give the team an unfair advantage against other districts that don’t have the opportunity to put their best players all on one team.

Greene believed that argument was flawed because Portland students can attend any of the city’s high schools, but now the hockey players must all attend PHS.

“They’ve all but ensured there will never be a Deering team again, because all the hockey players will just go to Portland,” Greene said.

However, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ruled that because the MPA isn’t a state agency, and that this wasn’t a constitutional claim, there was no sex discrimination.

“I told them the importance of holding their heads high,” Greene said. “I think they’re going to be cult heroes. I think they’ll win in the court of public opinion.”

A representative of the MPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.