OSSINING, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Westchester County high school student is fighting back against what he calls gender discrimination.
Cruz Vernon, 17, has one simple wish before he graduates from Ossining High School next year: To compete in gymnastics at the state level.READ MORE: New York Relaxes Most COVID-19 Restrictions After Reaching 70% Vaccination Rate; Cuomo: 'A Momentous Day'
“I started gymnastics when I was 9 years old,” he said.
In seventh grade, he joined his school’s all-girl team. In ninth grade, he even placed in states. But since then, Section 1 – which governs high school sports across several nearby counties including Westchester – banned Vernon from being a scoring member of the team.
He says that decision was made simply because he’s a boy.
“I could still do my routines during competitions and get scored for them, but whatever score I received wouldn’t count towards the team’s score,” he said.
When Vernon’s mom appealed the decision, the Section 1 committee upheld it, saying Vernon “exceeds the physical abilities in his team… thereby creating an unfair advantage” and his participation “would result in a female gymnast being displaced.”READ MORE: Fireworks Honor Essential Workers As New York Lifts Most COVID Restrictions
So Vernon’s family got attorney Paul Barger involved. He brought his discrimination complaint all the way to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
“What we really want is a resolution. We want him to have the opportunity to compete,” Barger said.
Vernon told CBS2 news he’s being discriminated against because of his gender and stature, when in reality being 6’3″ is actually a disadvantage when it comes to the sport. So he’s hoping this decision is overturned by the spring, when post-season competitions begin.
But above all else, Vernon wants this to set a precedent moving forward.
“I also want this to reach out to any other boys who may be in a similar situation,” he said. “People need to know that there are others going through similar situations and they’re not alone in this.”MORE NEWS: COVID Restrictions Lifted: Yankee Stadium Returns To Full Capacity Friday
CBS2 reached out to the Section 1 committee. The executive director told us they have no comment at the moment.