Monday, October 22, 2007

Chicago Coach Alleges Discrimination Against Boys' Basketball Team

A former high school boys basketball coach in Chicago has filed a Title IX lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the (female) athletic director, who is also the girls' basketball coach, systematically discriminated against the boys' program. After being terminated earlier this month, the ex-coach, Lamont Bryant, sued Marshall High School, its principal, and its AD, alleging that he lost his job in retaliation for complaining that the boys' team received less access to open gym times and substandard travel accommodations relative to the girls' team.

According to the Sun-Times, Marshall High School claims that Bryant was fired earlier this month for failing to live up to certain requirements in his employment contract, like appearing in certain tournaments and wearing a tie to games. Sun-Times columnist Greg Couch does not believe that the real underlying issue was a dispute about discrimination, but rather, one about scheduling: the AD wanted the boys team to play in a high profile and potentially lucrative tournament, but the coach insisted on taking the team to a different tournament instead.

The federal court will have to determine whether Marshall fired Bryant for violating his contract or whether there is anything to Bryant's claims of retaliation and disparate treatment for boys. There are clearly facts in dispute. The Tribune reports that the AD denied the allegations that the girls receive luxury travel arrangements, and the Sun-Times suggests that Bryant's complaint about travel boils down to the fact that the boys' bus once had a broken toilet. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that a dispute about the season's tournament schedule would be enough to cause Marshall to sever ties with a 108-23 coach of a nationally-ranked team.

Hopefully, though, the parties can resolve this dispute quickly without resorting to litigation. Emotions are running high at Marshall High School, where students have protested Bryant's termination with a walkout and some players are threatening to boycott the season if he is not reinstated.

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