EUREKA, Mo. (AP) — Matt Bozdech of suburban St. Louis wants to play field hockey, but that's a problem in Missouri. It's a girls-only sport at the high school level.
Matt's parents have filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging discrimination, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The agency is investigating.
Matt is a 15-year-old student at Eureka High School in the Rockwood School District.
His complaint is the flip side of the debate over Title IX, the 1972 law that bars gender discrimination in school programs. The program has erased the novelty of girls sports and led to fewer raised eyebrows when a girl tries to play a sport traditionally considered in the realm of boys, such as football or wrestling.
But a boy trying to play on a girls team is still viewed differently.
"I still like my school. I still support the team," Matt said. "I just want to play."
Field hockey is an often brutal sport, but traditionally played by girls only. Nationally, fewer than 300 boys played field hockey in high school in 2012-2013, compared to nearly 62,000 girls, according to a survey. Boys who do play almost always play on a girls team.
Matt was in first grade when he discovered field hockey. That summer, he was the only boy at a field hockey camp.
"I've been playing with the same friends for so long that I've gotten used to it," Matt said.
Matt and his father, a principal at Loyola Academy in St. Louis, asked Rockwood to let him play. The answer was no, prompting the discrimination complaint. Rockwood officials declined to comment on the specifics of Bozdech's complaint, but noted it offers 11 sports for boys and 11 for girls.
Bozdech said he wants Rockwood to ask the Missouri State High School Activities Association for an exemption to the "no boys" rule. If the association rejects the request, then Matt won't play, Bozdech said.
In most states, including Missouri, girls cannot play on boys teams if the school offers that same sport for girls. Otherwise, a girl may play on a boys team if the sport isn't offered for girls and is defined as "noncontact." Boys can't join a girls team if the school's athletic offerings for both sexes is at least equal, and coed teams can play all-boys teams, but not all-girls teams.
Football and wrestling in Missouri are considered coed sports. Girls rarely play, but they can. However, it's not the same for boys looking to play female-dominated sports.
Some states have changed the rules. Pennsylvania has allowed boys to play on girls field hockey teams under a court injunction. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association is drafting new rules that limit boys' participation in traditional girls sports.