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School board fires doctor after he says girl doesn't belong on boys wrestling team. Doctor hits back and says that's not the full story.


'Girls don't play boys sports in Lancaster Schools'

Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A New York school board terminated its contract with an independently contracted doctor who reportedly denied a high school girl's request to join her high school's all-boys wrestling team because she's a girl.

What are the details?

The Lancaster Central Schools Board of Education in Lancaster, New York, terminated a relationship with Dr. MIchael Terranova on Saturday morning.

The board voted unanimously to terminate the district contract, according to WKBW-TV, after Terranova refused to clear 12-year-old student Trista Blasz to join the junior varsity boys wrestling team. Trista reportedly passed two mandated state tests prior to engaging with Terranova.

A portion of Terranova's denial, however, read, "Girls don't play boys sports in Lancaster Schools."

Trista and her family speak up

WOWT-TV reported that Trista, who previously won several national wrestling awards, is disappointed with Terranova's decision.

"I just can't wrestle basically because I'm a girl," Trista complained.

Her mother, Danielle Blasz, echoed her daughter's disappointment in remarks to the station.

"[It] isn't fair, just because she's a girl," Blasz said. "And this is the only explanation I can come up with. If she was a boy, she'd be on the team already."

It was Cristta Hartinger, Trista's aunt, who reportedly inspired the young girl to explore wrestling — and Hartinger has her own tangled history with Terranova as well.

"I wrestled from 14 to, I want to say 19, when I left college after I wrestled there for three and a half years," she told WKBW.

Hartinger told the station that Terranova nearly stopped her from realizing her own wrestling dream more than a decade ago when he also refused to sign off on her medical clearance form.

"It's the same doctor, Dr. Terranova, and he did give me the same excuse, which was girls don't wrestle on boys teams," Hartinger said. "It was a back-in-the day situation, and I never thought that this day would really truly come to be honest."

What will the new medical director do?

The board is seeking a new partnership with a physician for its district medical director position. The new director will review Trista's request.

Jill Fecher, a school board member, told WOWT that "[t]here is absolutely no policy about girls playing boy sports," but noted that New York state requires the decision to be made by a three-person committee.

In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Michael Vallely said, "Mixed gender high school sports teams for students who qualify exist in districts across the state. I do not agree with the review committee's decision based on their own findings of their evaluation, but the requirements of N.Y. state's process do not provide me the ability to override a committee's decision."

"I am exploring avenues to have that decision revisited," he added.

What else?

A spokesperson for Lancaster-Depew Pediatrics, where Terranova works, told WKBW that Terranova denied Trista's request "based on objective standards mandated by the state," and not simply on the grounds that she is a girl.

"The State of New York has established a protocol for female students seeking permission to compete in boys' sports. Dr. Terranova was one of three individuals tasked with the assessment of the girl's application to wrestle on the boys' team," the statement explained. "Permission was denied based on objective standards mandated by the state. This decision was motivated by concerns for the student's safety and physical maturity. Despite public outcry initiated by the student's parent, any form of discrimination is strenuously denied."

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