Education

The girls teams had to borrow toilet paper from the men’s room. An ex-coach is suing

Then-Brookland-Cayce head coach Emily Heise yells out directions to her players during the Bearcat's Class 3A State Championship match against Indian Land in May. Heise, who is now coaching at Gray Collegiate, has filed a federal lawsuit against Brookland-Cayce and the Lexington 2 school district.
Then-Brookland-Cayce head coach Emily Heise yells out directions to her players during the Bearcat's Class 3A State Championship match against Indian Land in May. Heise, who is now coaching at Gray Collegiate, has filed a federal lawsuit against Brookland-Cayce and the Lexington 2 school district. online@thestate.com

A former girls’ soccer coach at Brookland-Cayce High School says discrimination against female athletes and teams at the school is so widespread that the girls’ teams must borrow toilet paper from the men’s restrooms.

Former coach Emily Heise outlined a pattern of what she says are persistent inequities in a lawsuit filed against school and Lexington 2 officials.

School officials refused to correct problems repeatedly called to their attention, displaying “hostility” toward Heise when she questioned why girls’ teams were treated differently than boys’ teams, the federal lawsuit filed Nov. 17 says.

The lawsuit seeks to end what it claims are violations of federal Title IX standards that require equal treatment for male and female athletes in school sports.

Lexington 2 attorney Jake Moore disputed Heise’s allegations. “To my knowledge, none of the accusations are true,” he said. “But if we did something wrong, we’ll fix it.”

Discrimination at Brookland-Cayce affected teams playing volleyball and softball as well as soccer, the lawsuit says. Major problems cited in the lawsuit include:

▪ Coaches of girls’ teams are forced to raise much more money for equipment, uniforms, referees, transportation, meals and security than the boys’ teams.

▪ Requests for basic supplies are ignored, forcing girls’ teams into “borrowing” toilet paper from men’s restrooms for practices and games.

▪ Boys’ teams get preference in scheduling practices and games as well as use of technology such as video displays at the school stadium.

▪ Girls’ teams sometimes are snubbed at awards ceremonies, with their trophies not on display.

Heise declined further comment Tuesday. Her attorney, Jennifer Stark of Mount Pleasant, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lexington 2 is the second school district in the Midlands to be accused of gender inequity in sports in the past 18 months. Improvements in softball facilities are coming at Lexington High School under a settlement reached last year after a parent complained to federal civil rights officials.

Heise is the wife of former Brookland-Cayce boys’ soccer coach Kevin Heise.

He resigned last spring after a classroom incident in which he gave an impromptu speech to two students. The incident was recorded by a student in the class. During the speech, Heise made comments about school athletic director Rusty Charpia, who is also the football coach.

Emily Heise was a soccer coach at Brookland-Cayce from 2009 until 2017, serving as head coach the final year, according to the lawsuit. After leading the team to the state championship game — where the Bearcats lost to Indian Land — she left to coach at Gray Collegiate after experiencing a “negative and hostile atmosphere and retaliation for trying to correct inequities.” Her husband also coaches at Gray Collegiate.

During the 2016-17 school year, Brookland-Cayce had 10 athletic teams for boys with 374 players, officials said. They were football, cross country, swimming, golf, tennis, basketball, soccer, track, baseball and wrestling.

The school had 10 teams for girls with 169 players. They were cheerleading, volleyball, cross country, swimming, golf, tennis, basketball, soccer, track and softball, of – with 169 players in sports during the 2016-17 school year, officials said.

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483

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