‘Body shaming’ at Clovis Unified? Female water polo players say they’re being told to cover up

Clovis Unified headquarters. Bee file photo.
Clovis Unified headquarters. Bee file photo. Fresno

Clovis Unified water polo players are being asked to cover up when out of the swimming pool.

Some female athletes say it’s unfair and sexist.

Kaitlyn Osbourne, a senior at Clovis High who is on the water polo team, said the girls were informed by an assistant coach on Sept. 3 of a new rule – that girls would have to wear shorts before the game, while on the pool deck and right after the game.

“It was just disheartening to hear that, especially because they weren’t applying it to the boys,” she told The Bee. “I felt like it was very sexist. It just made us feel like girls were the problem.”

Taylor Anderson, a Clovis junior who is also on the water polo team, said girls were upset about the rule.

The girls alleged someone took photos of the water polo team and sent them to the school board, saying their swimsuits were inappropriate.

They believe that triggered the problem.

“Someone complained because our suits were seen as too revealing and the board was getting complaints,” Anderson said.

Both Anderson and Osbourne said afterward the boys, too, were asked to cover up. But the girls believe that only came after tweets and online backlash in response to the new rule.

“I think they felt pressured to protect themselves from the public,” Osbourne said.

A female water polo player at Buchanan who asked to remain anonymous shared a similar story. She said some parents were upset because the girls’ suits are too revealing after they’ve been in the pool.

The girls said they should simply be told to adjust the bottom of their suits upon getting out of the pool instead of being made to cover up.

“It’s shameful that they are making us do that,” said the student.

Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants was asked whether the cover-up rule was put in place after someone took pictures of the girls in their bathing suits and complained, and whether only the girls were being told to cover up, and not the boys.

Avants said while those allegations were based on rumors, ultimately, the school district expects all schools to follow National Federation of State High School Association water polo rules that say suits for boys and girls have to completely cover the buttocks.

“Periodically, we reiterate this expectation to our coaches, who then may talk to their teams about how to meet this standard,” Avants said in a statement. “This could take the form of wearing towels, wraps, robes, coverups or shorts.”

Given the start of the school year, athletic directors were reminded to talk to their coaches to ensure the rule is followed, she said.

“It’s my understanding that such conversations are taking place around the district,” Avants said.

Some parents have said they plan to follow up by writing letters to school district administrators.

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Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.