Oak Knoll Girls Champion Basketball Hoop Height Equity
Oak Knoll’s vision is that every student is an exemplary scholar, a valued friend and a courageous citizen. Recently a group of girls from the fourth grade basketball program put this vision into practice addressing a disparity in the basketball program that had gone unnoticed for years. The City of Menlo Park facilitates a youth basketball league with teams from many area schools. Teams play each other within their grade levels, girls playing girls, boys playing boys, with games held after school at Arrillaga Family Recreation Center.
The first thing the Oak Knoll girls noticed was that the gym is divided by a curtain, and the boys always play in the front section, being more visible and not having to walk past other teams on the way to their courts. The girls’ games were always behind the curtain, so that an observer might never even notice that girls were playing the sport. This made the girls feel “tucked away” and “invisible.” The second glaring discrepancy was that the fourth grade boys were playing on taller hoops than the girls - even though the third and fifth grade teams used the same hoop height for boys and girls. This discovery angered the girls; it made them feel like the people in charge didn’t believe in them, and thought girls were less capable than boys. As the courageous citizens they are, a group of 12 girls from all three 4th grade teams bonded together and talked to Principal Gracia about their concerns and what to do. Ms. Gracia helped arrange a meeting with city officials, and the girls wrote their own speech about how the unequal hoops made them feel. As exemplary scholars, they came prepared with background research showing that the standard hoop height for their age is 9 feet. Why were they as girls playing on 8 foot hoops while the boys played on 10 foot ones? As the girls so wisely said, they would “rather miss on a big hoop than make it on a small one.”
The city considered the girls’ presentation, and has decided that starting next year, all 4th grade girls and boys will play on the same height hoops, and they will rotate which teams play in front of and behind the divider. Perhaps the most meaningful piece of this clear victory for girls is that it will benefit teams in the future. The permanent change was not communicated until after this year’s season ended, although the city decided to have the last game of this season played on higher hoops. That is what also makes this a story of valued friends. A true friend doesn’t do just what is in their own best interest. These girls were told the decision would likely take too long to affect their season, but they wanted to make sure all fourth grade girls in the future would be treated fairly and given the same opportunities as the boys.
The girls felt happy, proud, and that their hard work had clearly paid off. This is a lesson that Principal Gracia says may even inform her team’s work around next year’s theme for the whole school: What do you notice? When these students noticed an inequity they fought to change it for everyone, and nothing will stop them from making important changes in their communities in the future.
The twelve girls who worked with the city will be recognized at the MPCSD School Board meeting on May 7. They are: Caroline Baker, Alexa Djafari, Ava Glass, Claire Gracia, Vera Martin, Addison Moeller, Alisha Parikh-Briggs, Caitlin Regan, Priya Shah, Molly Skehan, Maya Wastie, and Lilia Wilkiewicz.