The disqualification of a Dimond High swimmer deemed to be wearing a suit that exposed too much of her buttocks “was heavy-handed and unnecessary,” the Anchorage School District said Tuesday evening.
The disqualification was overturned later Tuesday by the Alaska School Activities Association, the governing body of Alaska high school sports.
The school district, in a written statement, said the decision to single out the girl for a uniform violation was “based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body.”
“We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape,” the district said.
The district said it interviewed multiple people who witnessed the incident, which happened Friday at a Cook Inlet Conference dual meet between Dimond and Chugiak.
An appeal of the disqualification was made by Dimond coach Scott O’Brien, which the district on Tuesday presented to ASAA.
ASAA made its decision to overturn the disqualification based on a rule that says when an official discovers a uniform violation, she must notify the swimmer’s coach.
“All evidence gathered, including the statement provided by the official, indicated the official did not notify the coach prior to disqualifying the student,” ASAA said in its statement.
The school district said it is seeking, through ASAA, decertification of the official who disqualified the girl and revisions to the uniform rule. It said the National Federation of High School swimsuit coverage rule “is ambiguous and allows the potential for bias to influence officials’ decisions.”
Joey Caterinichio, an official who has tried for more than a year to get clarification about the rule from the ASAA, applauded the school district’s action.
“As an official who has to enforce the rules, I think it was the right outcome based on what was presented and what has happened,” she said.
“I absolutely agree the disqualification should be overturned. I also agree with the clarification for officials that the rule is too gray to make that call (to disqualify).”
The swimmer wore a school-issued suit while swimming in four races at Friday’s meet at Dimond High. She was disqualified from one of the races by the meet referee, who said the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek,’’ according to official Annette Rohde, who was working at the meet and said she questioned the referee about the decision.
Buttocks can become exposed when suit bottoms ride up and create what is known in the sport as “suit wedgies.” ASAA said it will tell officials that from now on, “the following must be considered: is the lack of coverage the result of an intentional action by the swimmer?”
“The rule was put in place to curtail swimmers from intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in such a manner as to expose their buttock,” the ASAA statement said. “ASAA believes students are not intentionally rolling up their swimsuits in this manner.”
Neither does Caterinichio, a former swimmer who thinks the athletes deserve the benefit of the doubt.
“Swimsuits migrate," she said. "You have to assume this is a part of the sport.”
This story has been updated to clarify that the Anchorage School District is seeking through ASAA the decertification of the official as well as a revision of the uniform rule.