Referee who disqualified Dimond High swimmer still a ref, but the rule remains

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - (Editor's note: this article has been updated with a quote from the swimmer's mother)

The Alaska School Activities Association made a statement that Jill Blackstone, the referee who disqualified a Dimond High School swimmer after winning a race for the swimsuit she was wearing, will not be de-certified for that action. People are saying it’s more the rule’s fault than the official’s.

The Anchorage School District made a list of demands to the ASAA after the disqualification. They wanted the action reversed, to return all the points back to the Dimond High swim team, a suspension of the modesty rule in question, and Blackstone’s certification with the National Federation of State High School Associations removed.

The disqualification has been overturned and the points returned at this point.

Billy Strickland, executive director of the ASAA, said they are looking into changing the rules to avoid anything like this in the future.

“We could elect to no longer follow the NFHS rulebook, we could throw out the rule, we could stay in the rulebook and throw out that rule, we could adopt USA Swim and Dive Rules,” he said, “I think it depends on what the membership thinks is best moving forward.”

Lauren Langford is a swim coach herself at West High School. She was one of the first people to stand up for Willis by writing a blog post that raised nationwide scrutiny.

Langford said she supports whatever the Anchorage School District wants, but doesn’t know if stripping Blackstone of her title is going to fix the problem.

“I think the rule as it's stated sets everybody up to fail. It specifies that certain sensitive body parts need to be covered, but it does not specify how covered,” she said, “She was armed with a bad rule and she was committed to enforcing all of the rules.”

Strickland said even though Blackstone is still a referee, ASAA has decided that they won’t be allowing her to officiate the state meet this year. ASD has also said in a statement that they’ll do everything they can to make sure that she won’t be officiating any of their events.

The swimmer’s mother, Meagan Kowatch, said that she is currently very upset. In a text message to KTUU, Kowatch wrote "The important thing is that the rule is gone and no other CHILD will be disqualified in a discriminatory manner."

Blackstone responded to an email from Channel 2 reporters saying, ‘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.”

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