Private high school wants 'equal terms' for students

SEATTLE - Schools across the state are getting ready for Friday night football, but at Bishop Blanchet High School, an ongoing dispute about a law is keeping athletes from playing when the sun goes down.

Blanchet is playing its home opener Friday afternoon, and is scheduled earlier than most games because there are no lights on the field.

"We have to rush out of school each day to make bus," Kasia Omilian, student athlete says. "It's just such unneeded stress when we have a beautiful field right here."

Sometimes students can't even get fields for their games, as an agreement between the Parks Department and public schools gives priority to public schools.

In April the city approved field lights, but that decision was reversed by a hearing examiner after neighbors appealed.

John Rahn is the co-chair of "Concerned Blanchet Neighbors," an effort that was started by neighbors to address their concerns with the project.

Rahn says, "We feel that if Blanchet were allowed to go ahead and develop a lighted-night stadium, unanimously the neighborhood feels the effect would be intolerable."

Blanchet is now disputing that decision, claiming the hearing examiner's order is "an erroneous interpretation of the law," and violates their Constitutional rights to equal treatment.

"We've been working with the city and they're great to deal with, but at this point it's pretty clear the law is treating us in an unequal way, and we just want to stand up for that and for our students," Antonio DeSapio, Bishop Blanchet High School president says.

Rahn adds the added traffic, noise, and lights would change the character of the neighborhood.

According to the Department of Planning and Development decision, the school's application to install field lights was approved with conditions. Some of those include: no field lighting during May, June and July and on Sundays. During the week, field lighting would be automatically shut off by 9 p.m., except for six Friday nights a year to accommodate varsity football games; on those game days, the lights would be shut off at 10:30 p.m.

The DPD's decision also noted that between September and April approximately 72 practices and 42 games will occur on site as a result of the addition of field lighting.

"The fact of the matter is using that field at night, 200 nights a year for public crowd events, does nothing to mitigate except not using it 200 nights a year," Rahn says.

In the meantime, Blanchet's football team will play the rest of their home games on Saturday afternoon while school officials tackle the light issue in court.

A spokeswoman for the City Attorney's Office says all of the parties are working together to figure out how this case will move forward.