Keeling's fight appears to be a rare example of a young man seeking to take advantage of Title IX, a 40-year-old law enacted to provide women equal access to athletic opportunities. There are no boys' high school field hockey teams anywhere on Long Island, or, for that matter, in most of the country.
"It's really annoying," the eighth-grader said in a recent interview. "I'm just 4-foot-8 and 82 pounds, so I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to play. I don't really care if I'm on a girls' team or a boys' team, I just want to play."
Southampton school administrators agree, but they don't have the final say.
"The decision to support him represents our commitment to provide meaningful opportunities to each of our students," Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes said in a statement. "Our community, including the girls on our field hockey team, embraced Keeling Pilaro and we couldn't be more proud of him."
The problem, according to Edward Cinelli, the director of the organization that oversees high school athletics in Suffolk County, is that state education law won't allow it. He cited a provision that says administrators are permitted to bar boys from girls' teams if a boy's participation "would have a significant adverse effect" on a girl's opportunity to participate in interschool competition in that sport. Officials say Keeling's skills are superior to the girls he plays against, creating an unfair advantage.
Image: Field hockey stick and ball, via Shutterstock.