Recreation and Park Commission Discuss Gender Equity Policies



By Aleeza Khan


DAVIS, CA – City leaders are working to draft a number of new gender equity policies regarding youth sports in Davis. The assistant director of Parks and Community Services, Christine Helweg, went before the Recreation and Park Commission on Feb. 16, 2022 to present the initial drafts of these new policies. 


In 2004, the California Legislature enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 2404, also known as the “Fair Play Act,” which prohibits gender discrimination in community youth sport programs, and requires that city and county entities provide girls and boys equitable athletic opportunities, treatment and benefits in youth sports programs. 


Davis city staff members are developing new policies and procedures to ensure gender equity in competitive youth sports programs that are operated on city-owned land and within city facilities.


At the meeting, Helweg presented the initial policy drafts and asked for comments and feedback from commission members. 


“We want to ensure that we’re addressing all of the particular areas of concern that you have been hearing from the community members and/or throughout your work as a commissioner,” said Helweg.


There are three new gender equity policies under review. 


The first policy, “Gender Equity – Fair Play in Community Spots,” prohibits “discrimination against any person on the basis of sex or gender in the operation, conduct, or administration of competiive youth sport programs, or in the allocation of parks and recreation facilities and resources that support or enable these programs.” 


The second policy is the city’s grievance procedure regarding gender equity. Under this policy, the city offers four methods in case of inequity. Community members are encouraged to contact either the Parks and Community Service Director or the Human Resources Office, or attend a meeting of either the Recreation and Park Commission or the City Council. 


The third policy regards a notification system to inform the community and distribute training resources to users and city staff. 


Commission member Darci Silbaugh raised concerns for the representation of transgender youth in the policies. She mentioned that the current iteration of the document uses specific phrasing such as “regardless of sex and gender.” 


Silbaugh requested to “ensure through legal review that transgender, nonbinary, and gender fluid individuals are represented in the document as well.”


Commission member Mieko Chambers then spoke up on behalf of individuals with disabilities, asking how the City of Davis will work to accommodate individuals equitably. “For example,” she said, “what if you have a kid in a wheelchair and they want to sign up for city league basketball?” 


Christine Helweg explained a set of procedures currently used by the city, “our inclusion coordinator discusses with the participant and their family/guardians what kind of limitations or needs of support that would be required. If it’s within a reasonable realm for the city to provide that level of support, we will provide that level of support.”


“I think that what the city would do is if that person has specific limitations that we could not provide the accommodations or support for, we would try to accommodate them in some other [similar] program that we would be able to provide accommodations for,” continued Helweg.


At the conclusion of the discussion, city staff and the Recreation and Park Commission agreed to let the drafts be reviewed and revised by a legal team, before being brought to the commission again. After all revisions, these new equity policies will be presented to the City Council.


About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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    1. David Greenwald

      Maybe because it’s an article about gender equity policies? Not sure I would have gone with that personally, but ok. (Although reading through the article and the discussion, I think it’s alright).

  1. Edgar Wai

    The content of the policies is apparently about equality, not equity.

    Gender equity in competition means providing handicap to offset gender differences so that gender is not a factor that would affect the winning ratio in the same competition where people of any gender are competing against each other.

    If you have a marathon and you let people of any gender compete, that is gender equality. If you let a certain gender get a headstart in the marathon to even out the odds, that is gender equity.

    1. Alan Miller

      Yes EW I was thinking the same but was not able to articulate in words thanks for doing so.  I believe that applying the true meaning of the word your scenario would be correct.  This may demonstrate that few really understand the concept of equity and instead use it as a buzzword.


    2. Bill Marshall

      In this post of yours, Edgar, I fully agree…

      There is a huge difference between ‘equal opportunity’, and ‘equal outcomes’… goes to the individual… I favor the ‘equal opportunity’ concept, and tend to reject the ‘equal outcome’ measurement of what is right, moral, fair.

      ‘Gender equity’ is ill-defined as to whether what is meant is “non-exclusionary”, ‘special accommodations’, equal opportunity, or equal outcomes…

      Hard to have a cogent discussion where the topic is “squishy” as to the real topic.

  2. Alan Miller

    Was the commission was dancing around the elephant in the room and not until tenth paragraph was mentioned to . . .

    “ensure through legal review that transgender, nonbinary, and gender fluid individuals are represented in the document as well.”

    Is not the main dividing issue on this nationwide how transgender athletes are categorized to play in what league, the main issue being between 1) The right of those born female to compete with others born female and how occasionally a person born male, but now identifies or transitioned to female, dominates a sport (a women’s rights issue); vs. 2) The right of those who have transitioned from male to female to compete in the league of the sex they now identify with (a transgender rights issue).  I consider both to be legitimate while also completely at odds with each other and in practice having no compromise position that would satisfy both sides — that’s why I find this issue so fascinating.  Maybe the ‘equity’ issues were not supposed to address this, as in California that decision may be ‘decided’, but nationally I am interested to watch how this plays out.  My personal solution is I care not a whit about organized team sports so I say just solve this by declaring the whole concept of organized sports and categorizing people into leagues ridiculous — and dismantle organized sports.  Being that won’t happen, we have created as a society an unsolvable duality.

    I said more, why did I bother?

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