ASAA will not decertify Eagle River official at center of swimsuit controversy

Monday, October 21, 2019 - 12:54

The Eagle River swim official at the center of a national controversy over swimsuits will not be decertified, according to the Alaska School Activities Association.

The association released a statement about the situation Wednesday, saying the official’s original decision was “based upon facts as reasonably and in good faith understood by the official” and “consistent with the NFHS rule as written and depicted.”

The Anchorage School District responded strongly to the decision Wednesday, issuing its own statement saying the official “did not fairly and impartially arbitrate the current NFHS swimsuit rules, thus leading to our request to ASAA that she be decertified.”

The official in question, longtime area swim official Jill Blackstone, came under national criticism after she disqualified a Dimond girl during a meet between Chugiak and Dimond at Dimond High due to what she deemed was an improper fit.

ASAA later reversed the disqualification.

[[READ MORE: ASD calls decision to disqualify swimmer over suit ‘heavy-handed and unnecessary’]]

In its Wednesday press release, ASAA said the issue was with the rule moreso than the official’s conduct.

“Given this, the official’s decision did not constitute “gross or repetitive violations of [the applicable fairness and integrity standards]” which is the standard for decertification. The NFHS swimsuit coverage rule has been controversial since it was issued. ASAA will not and cannot decertify an official where, as here, the issue is the rule itself.”

Blackstone has always maintained she applied the rule properly.

“I followed specified protocol described in the governing NFHS rules to process the disqualification,” she wrote in a public statement on the incident last month.

In an email to the Star Wednesday, Blackstone said she was thankful for the decision.

“I am thankful the Alaska State Activities Association rejected the Anchorage School District’s request for my decertification as unwarranted under the circumstances and rules in place at the time of the disqualification,” she wrote.

The Anchorage School District issued a statement criticizing ASAA’s decision, saying it “clearly does not reflect ASAA’s mission of ‘advocating equitable participation and fosering healthy competition for ALL Alaska students.”

“The underlying message from this decision is that even when wearing a team-issued uniform, female athletes still need to worry about what they are wearing or risk being disqualified,” ASD superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said in the release. “Young women should never have to worry about their body image when they are competing in sports. They should only have to focus on their skills and competing in the pool, on the field, or the court. This decision is truly unfortunate and appears to ignore ASAA’s mission of advocating for student athletes.”

Read the entire ASD press release here.

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