Friday, January 30, 2009

Ohio school district provides good model

In Ohio, the Middletown School District undertook a voluntary study of equity in athletics and found some things to fix. (I always question how "voluntary" some of these studies are, but it appears that administrators just wanted to get a sense of the state of things.)
In addition to examining facilities, the study look at sports offerings and participation. There was the typical number-crunching of participation opportunities by gender and a survey of female students to find out what they wanted to play. Those two components have lead to the decision to add, district-wide, a sport for girls. Lacrosse ad gymnastics are both being considered.
Additionally, the study encourages more opportunities at the elementary school level to cultivate interest early on.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama Signs Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Finally! After a Supreme Court decision invalidating her claim and a previous failed attempt to pass legislation that would allow her to sue for damages based on sex discrimination in the workplace, Lily Ledbetter got her due today.

President Obama today signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, increasing the time frame for plaintiffs to bring cases alleging unfair pay based on sex discrimination. Although not a Title IX issue, the signing of the Act speaks well for an Obama administration that is (I hope) thoughtful and fair in its approach to sex-based discrimination claims.

The New York Times carried the full story of the signing of the Act, here.

High School Coach Litigation Roundup

Several basketball coaches challenging discrimination in high school athletics have made news recently.

Lamar Bryant, fired from his position as head coach of the Marshall High School boys basketball team in Chicago recently settled his wrongful termination/retaliation suit against the Chicago Public Schools. As we noted last fall, Bryant's federal lawsuit alleged that his female athletic director discriminated against him and the boys' basketball team. Bryant will receive $500,000.

In Franklin County, Indiana, girls basketball coach Amber Parker is gearing up to sue the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Association over the Friday night schedule issue we blogged about recently. She is looking for a lawyer to help her bring the case.

And Linda Wachter, formerly the girls' basketball coach at Exeter Union High School in California, is continuing to press her claim that the school district fired her in retaliation for her complaints that the athletic department was discriminating against her team by, among other things, denying them access to priority practice times and access to facilities. (We blogged about this case when it was filed in September.) The court recently dismissed her other sex discrimination claims, but determined that the facts she alleged, if proven, would constitute retaliation. The court is now in the processing of scheduling a trial or alternative resolution.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Title IX tidbits

In Indiana it appears that not too much has changed since the state's high school athletics association got a letter over a decade ago from the Department of Education about scheduling boys' basketball games. Girls' basketball, at that time, had 10.5 percent of their games scheduled on Friday nights. Today it is at 19.2 percent. Boys who play b-ball in Indiana have 41 percent of their games scheduled for Friday nights. Fridays are considered an optimal day and the preferential scheduling in favor of boys' teams is an issue. In addition to opportunity for ticket sales and other revenue-generating ventures, games scheduled on Fridays are good for players who do not have to worry about getting homework done that night and going to school the next day. No formal complaints, legal or otherwise, have been filed, but the availability of the above statistics suggests it wouldn't be hard to prove inequitable treatment.

Niagra University is adding women's golf to their list of varsity sports. No word on why--especially given the economic realities most insitutions of higher education are facing. A quick look at the insitutional data shows women comprise 61 percent of the undergraduate student body and have 51 percent of the athletic opportunities. There is already a men's golf team. Not sure if that was a factor as well. But good opportunity for female golfers in the region.

And speaking of tough economic times, some schools--especially DIII schools--are using athletics to boost enrollment, and thus bring in some tuition dollars, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed. Of course, it's not as easy as bringing in athletes. Some schools are adding football. Over 100 new student-athletes equals a nice boost to tuition revenues. But it also adds a lot more participation opportunities for men. There's also the issue of where recruiting dollars are coming from--for men and women. Athletic administrators attest to the success of bringing students to campus after they have had some contact with athletic department people--but recruitment costs money.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Deconstructing Michelle Obama's arms

If you watched the inauguration last week, you likely had to hear all about Michelle Obama's fashion sense. We got regular updates on the designers she has worn as well as *gasp* off-the-rack clothing she sported during the campaign. And then there were the many comparisons to former first ladies.

But it was this statement from an article from WaPo that caught my attention*:

When she bounded onto the stage in her sleeveless dresses, with her muscular post-Title IX arms in full view, the definition of a strong woman changed.

My first reaction was my customary grumble at the term post-Title IX. How can we possibly be post-T9 when we don't have any equity.

But there's so much more going on in this statement. First, is Obama even a product of Title IX? I cannot seem to find any indication that she played sports as a youngster--correct me if I am wrong! Her brother is a basketball coach and her family vetted Barack Obama by playing pick-up with him; but there's nothing about Michelle being able to make a sweet 3-pointer, or a diving save, or a triple lutz.

So where did she get her arms? The gym. She's known for early morning intense workouts. This isn't a judgment. It's a point, that I feel, frequently goes unmentioned and ties into this apparently new definition of a strong woman. There are plenty of strong women who play and have played sports. And there are plenty of strong women who have never played sports. And there are women in both these categories who do not meet this definition of the "new" strong woman.

Because there is a limit to just how strong a woman can be. Michelle Obama and her arms fall within the limits of acceptable feminine strength. Likely because she follows a weight routine that emphasizes muscle toning over muscle mass-making. Because there is still the fear today, I hear it all the time, about becoming " too bulky." Look around your gym, you will see a lot of arms that resemble Michelle Obama's. A former professor of mine called them "soccer mom biceps." They are very nice. They are certainly more built and toned than many women's arms of years past. But again, they are acceptable for a woman to have. If they were not, we would have been talking about Michelle Obama's arms a long time ago.

As it is the current conversation (as one-sided as it is right now) is bordering on worrisome because of the way the article invoked Obama's physicality. The "bounding" Obama resembles some of the problematic discourse around black athletes, including black female athletes. I have read, of course, far more overt animalistic references and Delia Douglas has a great article on this topic. It may look like I am being especially sensitive, but I think we need to interrogate these moments.

Why that word? Why the focus on her arms? And more broadly, why does post-T9 seem to equal "feminist"? Can we not say the word feminist? Can we not refer to the First Lady as a feminist, instead referring to her as "strong"?

I guess we'll have to wait and see how some of these questions play out. Maybe Michelle Obama and her post-Title IX arms will make an appearance when Candace Parker goes to the White House for a pick-up game, and we'll get some answers.

*It actually caught my sister's attention and then had mine for many hours; so h/t to kan-s.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Title IX Blog honors the memory of Coach Kay Yow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tis the Season

On the heels of news about the New York City girls' soccer season moving to fall comes another story about girls' sports in nontraditional season. In Hazleton, Pennsylvania, an unnamed coach approached the school board of directors about the lack of winter sports for seventh and eight grade girls could violate Title IX. Middle school boys can chose between basketball and wrestling, but girls have no winter sports at all. Most of the school directors seemed receptive to the coaches concerns, and are now considering whether to move girls basketball from spring to winter. The Hazleton schools would have to coordinate with other schools in their conference to ensure that there will be competition for the team.

But not all school officials were as concerned. When pressed about the apparently inequity of this schedule (which offers the same number of sports for boys and girls, but concentrates girls sports in the fall and spring), one of the school directors, Jack Shema, apparently got a little defensive, and inexplicably responded: "let them [girls] try out for football." What? Unless football is a winter sport in Hazleton (which I doubt) this is a total nonsequitur. Or, this response is just another incarnation of the familiar pattern, "Hegemonic masculinity of sport challenged. Man invoke football."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Recesion hits Stanford athletics

Stanford has one of the most successful and largest DI athletics programs in the country. The school carries 35 varsity teams and produces more than its share of Olympians (like Kerri Walsh!).
But it has not been immune to the recent economic downturn. And with a forecasted $5million in lost revenues over the next three years, the stability that may have once existed in this successful department seems to be waning. But cutting teams and coaches has been described as a last resort. Let's hope this is the case but ideas floating around, such as charging for football parking, don't seem quite solid enough to assuage fears from minor sports that always seem to be first in line at the chopping block.
AD Bob Bowlsby says there are many cost-cutting and revenue-generating possibilities that he is not at liberty to discuss yet. It looks, though, like the department will take a first step soon; a step taken in other Stanford departments already: staff layoffs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breaking News: Supreme Court Holds Title IX DOES NOT PRECLUDE 1983 Claims

I have to teach in a few minutes, so for now I can only post a link --

Reversing the First Circuit, the Supreme Court held today in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee that an available remedy for sex discrimination under Title IX does not preclude a plaintiff from seeking to remedy that sex discrimination by suing also (or instead) under 42 U.S.C 1983, the private right of action for constitutional violations.

Oh and I guess I also have time to say that the decision was unanimous and written by Justice Alito.

More later!

Update: OK, I'm back. I had to double check, in case I was hallucinating earlier, but it is still true that today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous, pro-plaintiff decision and that it was authored by one of its most conservative Justices. Going forward, courts will not be able to quickly dismiss constitutional claims addressing sex discrimination in educational settings by simply invoking the manta of preemption.

Specifically, the Court based its conclusion that 1983 claims are not preempted by Title IX on comparison to prior cases in which preemption was found. Those cases all involved statutes with "complex" and "elaborate" and "highly detailed" remedial schemes that evidenced Congress's intent that those statutory remedies supplant existing remedies available under 1983. Title IX, on the other hand, does not contain a comprehensive remedial scheme. The statute itself only expressly provides for agency enforcement and a penalty of withdrawal of federal funds; indeed, the authority it provides to private enforcement exists only by implication. Consequently, there is no evidence that Congress intended Title IX to limit, by serving as an exclusive alternative to, remedies that already existed at the time the law was passed.

As further support for its conclusion that Congress did not intent Title IX remedies to preempt 1983, the Court noted that the scope of rights and protections afforded by Title IX on the one hand and 1983/Equal Protection Clause on the other are overlapping but not identical. For example, the Title IX covers private schools that accept federal funds, while the Equal Protection Clause covers public schools. On the other hand, Title IX only applies to educational institutions, while the Equal Protection Clause allows suits against institutions and individuals alike. And even where both laws apply, conduct that may violate one does not necessarily violate the other; for example, harassment is only actionable under Title IX if school officials are deliberately indifferent and have actual notice, while harassment can violate the Equal Protection Clause if it is part of an official "custom, policy, or practice." With so much difference between the two sources of law, it is hard to imagine that Congress wanted Title IX to operate to the exclusion of 1983's remedy for constitutional violations.

Lastly, the Court addressed the concern, which it noted during oral argument, that the plaintiffs in this case would not actually benefit from a 1983 claim given their Title IX claim had been dismissed on the merits. Appropriately, rather than engaging in speculation about what arguments the Plaintiffs could have made under 1983 had that claim not been preempted, the Court noted simply that "no court has addressed the merits of their constitutional claims or even the sufficiency of their pleadings [under 1983]." In so noting, the Court further reinforced the holding of today's decision: that a plaintiff has the right to pursue both Title IX and 1983 claims and have both claims decided on their merits.

The day after

Sports writer Sally Jenkins has a few things to say to Barack Obama, including reforming the BCS, as we mentioned yesterday--something she believes he can easily accomplish.
No specific mention of Title IX, but number 8 on her list of requests is equal pay in women's sports. She takes the case of Tennessee basketball as a prime example of inequality in sports:
Volunteers men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl is in only his fourth season at Tennessee and never has been past the Sweet 16, yet he makes more than twice what Summitt makes -- an average of $2.3 million a year, plus a retention bonus of $1.5 million. Summitt is in her 35th season at Tennessee and has won eight national championships, graduated 100 percent of her players who have completed their eligibility and is closing in on 1,000 career victories.

She also asks him to show America that basketball is basketball--not men's basketball and women's basketball. She suggests a good way to illustrate this is to invite Candace Parker to the White House for some one-on-one. Better do it sooner in the first 100 days rather than later. It's going to be harder for her to get her dunk on when she's dunking for two!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day Post

Most of us Title IX advocates are hopeful about the new administration. Obama, from what he said during the campaign, seems to have a clue about what Title IX actually is. He has expressed concern with the survey method of discerning interest. Though, as we mentioned previously, we don't know much about what new Secretary of Education Duncan thinks of Title IX.

But what has most sports fans talking about Obama is his seemingly staunch attitude about college football and desire to throw the power of his office behind reforming the BCS. He has mentioned it more than once--the desire for a "true" champion.
Of course it doesn't really seem to be about Title IX issues. Though a shorter season--less travel, less extravagant spending around bowl games might free up some athletic department dollars for all those men's sports that are on the chopping block because, the anti-IXers say, because of Title IX.

Obama is not the only one thinking football reform. The Bleacher Report had an interesting column the other day about the compatibility of football and Title IX. We'll ignore for now the author's description of the three-pronged test as "flawed" and move on to other ideas presented. He suggests gradually transferring some of the 85 scholarships offered by DI teams to women's and men's minor sports. This, he believes, would also address the controversy over the BCS. With all teams being down to 50-60 scholarships, the author believes there would be more parity among all the conferences thus making a playoff system more feasible. (I can't speak to the validity of this proposal, but it's a suggestion I have not yet heard.) But in the end he points out the obvious, something even Obama has not seen, or at least mentioned. With the continuing inequities in women's sports, we're still spending time and energy on the controversy around the playoff system of one sport.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Football Hazing Incident Prompts Lawsuit, Invokes Title IX

A former high school football player and his parents have sued the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) School Committee and other defendants to challenge incidents of hazing that occurred at the hands of his teammates at a school-endorsed football camp in the summer of 2006. Matthew Marujo alleges that his teammates forced him to strip naked so they could -- in a tragic example of life imitating art -- rub a "bengay-like substance" on his testicles. The next morning, they attempted to duct tape him to his bed and to duct tape his mouth shut and threw a cup of semen at him as he struggled free. Inexplicably, the team captain videotaped the incident and presented the tape to the football coach.

Among the numerous claims in the Marujos' federal complaint is that the school district violated Title IX by showing deliberate indifference to peer harassment about which they had knowledge due to incidents of "hazing in prior years" directed at Marujo.

I expect that the defendants will seek to dismiss this count on the grounds that the complaint does not expressly allege that the hazing was motivated by Marujo's sex or gender, a requirement for Title IX liability to attach. But any sport sociologist will tell you that hazing in boys' sport, and particularly football, is usually motivated by a desire to enforce the dominant version of masculinity. Chances are, this plaintiff was targeted for his failure to comply with the hegemonic masculinity in some way. The fact that the assaulters went after Marujo's testicles and threw semen at him could easily be read as symbolic affronts to Marujo's masculinity. Maybe he was weak or timid or sensitive. Maybe he didn't participate in the sexual objectification women or gave his teammates other reasons to presume him gay or sissy. I hope that the court sees the inherent relationship between gender and football and hazing, or at least give the plaintiffs a chance, if necessary, to spell it out the connection expressly in subsequent pleadings.

Source: Complaint, Marujo v. Baldwin et al., No. 1:09-cv-10066 (D. Mass. Jan. 16, 2009).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

NYC Schools Will Move Girls' Soccer to Fall

In response to threats of litigation by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York City Department of Education has agreed to moved the girls' soccer season to the fall. As we noted last spring, NYCLU was challenging the Department's adherence to a 28 year old tradition of girls' soccer in the spring on the grounds that scheduling a girls' sport in the nontraditional season violated Title IX. (We predicted the Department of Education would give in, because it's clear the NYCLU is right -- especially after a similar case in Michigan was resolved in the plaintiffs' favor.) The spring season was disadvantageous for NYC girls because it conflicted with premier, nonscholastic club teams, which provide developmental opportunities in what is for girls outside NYC the "off" season. NYC boys, whose scholastic season was in the fall, could comfortably access such programs.

Tenth-grader Alyssa Ward, one of the NYCLU's clients, was pleased with the victory, according to the NYCLU's press release: “This change means that we no longer have to feel like second-class citizens and that our hard work and dedication to the game is being appreciated.”

News from Myles Brand

The NCAA concluded its meetings in Maryland the other day, but Myles Brand was not on hand to deliver the state-of-the-NCAA address. Earlier in the week it had been announced that Brand would miss most of the meetings because of an undisclosed illness. But the other day brand himself let the organization know that he has pancreatic cancer with a prognosis that is "not good." He has been undergoing chemotherapy this week. He does not plan to step down at this time, though others in the organization are expected to take on additional responsibilities. The NCAA is not looking for a new head.
Our thoughts are with Brand at this time.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Changing emerging sports

The NCAA has been meeting this past week on a myriad of issues, including women's emerging sports. Beach volleyball (which they are calling sand volleyball in an attempt to get greater interest; so if we call ice hockey frozen sheet of water hockey it could become, by this logic, less regional?) was up for consideration as an emerging sport but it did not receive the 2/3 votes required for such a distinction. It does appear though that it will be added in April after the requisite comment period when the vote only requires a simple majority.
Voted off the list of emerging sports were archery, synchronized swimming, badminton, and team handball.
My question, of course, is: when are they going to start talking about wrestling??

Friday, January 16, 2009

NCAA Study Examines Gender Gap in College Coaching

The NCAA has released a new report that addresses gender equity in college athletics. The report compiles responses to survey questionnaires that the NCAA administered to female student-athletes, coaches, administrators and aofficials in order to identify "factors that continue to influence women's careers, motivate women to seek careers in intercollegiate athletics, and to identify potential obstacles institutions may face in recruiting and retaining women in coaching, administration, and officiating postitions."

Women are the minority among college coaches, constituting less than a quarter of head coaches overall and less than half of coaches of women's teams. The popular assumption is that women are not interested in head coaching positions because the job is not family friendly. This assumption did find some support in the coaches responses. While most coaches reported favorably on their work-life balance, about a third of coaches surveyed (32%) disagreed that they have work-life balance. Similarly, 35% of coaches ranked family commitments as the most common reason why women don't go in to coaching. While these percentages are substantial, however, they are comparable to the percentage of coaches who reported dissatisfaction with other job factors like salary (33%) and gender equality within the athletic department (38%). This suggests to me that factors beyond family -- factors that are within an institution's control and that are affected by discrimiantion toward women in athletics -- are at least as signficant in determining whether women join or choose to remain in coaching. In addition to being proactive about ameliorating work-life balance concerns, athletic departments need to equalize salaries and treatment of their female coaches in order to retain them in the profession.

A similar recommendation might be warranted with respect to administration and officiating. Overall, female athletic adminstrators, like coaches, reported high levels of job satisfaction. However, a substantial 37% reported dissatisfaction in gender equity within their athletic departments (a dissatisfaction rate second only to 40% for "level of stress involved with the job"). Similarly, gender discrimination was the most popular reason for job dissatisfaction among female officials (45% expressing dissatisfaction).

Whistleblower at Weatherford?

A few months ago we mentioned an OCR investigation at Weatherford College in Texas where opportunities for male student-athletes are double those for women even though women comprise 60 percent of the student body. Also in that post was news the Weatherford had recently acquired, for the first time, a full-time athletic director.
It seems that the process for acquiring said AD created a few issues--well, at least one. The former PT AD has accused the college of age discrimination. Bob McKinley filed a grievance with the school saying that he was not chosen for the new position because his age does not conform with the new image of the athletic department that the school desires. This week, though, the board of trustees ended the grievance process and voted to relieve McKinley of his part-time AD responsibilities. He remains head coach of the women's basketball team.
In addition to age discrimination, McKinley has said he did not get the new AD job because of his previous complaints about gender equity in the department. Turns out it was McKinley who triggered the OCR investigation. Though, again, we have no specifics as to which aspects of gender equity McKinley felt were inadequate.
McKinley, according to Weatherford's president, has not been able to provide evidence of age discrimination or retaliation. Of course, it is very difficult to prove either these days, especially since McKinley is still a coach at the school. No word on whether McKinley will take his fight to the courts.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lake Oswego HS Title IX Complaint Resolved

In response to a student complaint filed with OCR over the summer (which we blogged about here), Lake Oswego High School (Oregon) has agreed to make its deluxe video screening room accessible to girls' teams. Previously, the room -- outfitted with a flat screen TV and comfy couches -- was mainly used by the football team. School officials claim that they "have never said that one group can not access this room" but since the room could only be reached through the boys' locker room, such protests seem hollow.

Fortunately, a solution lies in architecture. The high school has agreed to make the deluxe viewing room accessible from outside the locker room. They have also agreed to upgrade a second, existing viewing room to make it comparable to the football team's.

While it's nice to see an OCR complaint effectively resolved, it still kind of blows my mind that female students had to actually file a complaint to get the school to respond to such an obvious inequity. Going forward perhaps LOHS and its peers will do a better job ensuring equal access to athletic facilities and in responding to students' valid complaints.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SUNY Stony Brook Settles Sex Discrimination Case

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that SUNY Stony Brook has settled, for undisclosed terms, a Title VII lawsuit filed by a female former physics post-doc. The plaintiff, Sherry Towers, had alleged that the university decided not to extend her fellowship contract after and in retaliation for her complaints about sex discrimination by her supervisor, John Hobbs. According to the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund (which supported Towers's case), Hobbs told Towers she was not allowed to take maternity leave if she wanted to receive future recommendations from him. He then insisted that she return to work within days of giving birth. And while Towers' workload was reduced to 30-35 hours a week, she received a 40% pay reduction, even though other post docs who worked similar hours received full salary.

As Towers herself suggested to the Chronicle, her case supports the argument that women aren't underrepresented in science fields like physics because of lack of interest and ability. The gender gap derives not only from workplace norms, like nonaccommodation of pregnancy, that systematically advantage men, but also hostility to women who seek to challenge those norms with more inclusive policies. Apparently, Towers was a talented and accomplished physicist who discovered evidence of a new particle (OK, I admit I have no idea what that means, but it sounds impressive to me!). Now she is getting her license to teach high school physics. If she had had the support of her institution, what else would she have been able to accomplish?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Parents invoke Title IX during budget crises

College athletic administrators have long known that budget crises and consequent budget cuts have to be made equitably. And if it wasn't obvious before this current economic crisis, NCAA president Myles Brand made it clear a couple of months ago.
Now it seems that high school administrators are learning the same thing. In Frederick County Maryland where administrators are considering closing three of the public school's swimming pools, parents, swimmers, and coaches are putting up a little bit of a fight.
Most of the strategies for saving the pools involve cost-saving measures such as hold meets for 3 or 4 teams at a time rather than dual meets, getting volunteer lifeguards, and cutting down on practices.
But one parent asked to see the per student cost of swimmers versus football players (in the context of eliminating a few sports or making department-wide cuts). And other parents brought up Title IX. In Frederick County, swimming is a predominately female sport.
A meeting the other night was likely only the first in a series of discussions about how to save money. But it's clear that proponents of swimming know the issues.

Friday, January 09, 2009

More filings in bullying case

Last March, Erin wrote about a NYT profile of a victim of peer harassment in an Arkansas high school. The victim, Billy Wolfe, has since graduated from Fayetteville High School but there was, as Erin predicted there would be, a federal lawsuit filed against the school district. And then, this past week, Wolfe's attorney added to the original filing a 56-page brief that highlights the indifference of school administrators to the situation.
The details of Wolfe's abuse can be found in the NYT profile.
They are so egregious that one has to wonder how school officials could not know what was going on. And if they truly had no idea...well one has to wonder exactly what they were paying attention to.
Wolfe's attorney will have to prove the school knew about the harassment but did not take steps to prevent future incidences in order to legitimate the Title IX claim. There was nothing in the article that indicated what that evidence might be. Though, again, hard to miss what seems very obvious.
A trial date has been set for September.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Don't even think it--let alone write it

The Union Tribune in San Diego has stirred up a bunch o' trouble with a recent editorial by a sports writer calling for the elimination of football at San Diego State University. The program is economically strained and economically draining. Recently the university raised its student fee to cover some of the athletic department's budget deficits.
But people, including SDSU president Stephen Weber, are not happy. Weber wrote his own letter to the SDSU community because the paper would not give him the same amount of space they gave their own writer to respond--though the paper did invite him to respond. Weber is firm in his stance that football will remain at SDSU for as long as he is president.
But even that unequivocal statement has not stemmed the responses pro and con to the editorial which were numbering close to 150 when the paper published what it called the most representative letters.
Of course Title IX has been invoked in various ways.
But surprisingly there are a lot of self-described football fans who support the initial argument against retaining the program. In fact the majority of the letters received were supportive. The poll the paper has put online shows a majority of people support retaining the team. Neither the letters nor the poll will reveal any kind of true community sentiment, of course. It is clear that strong sentiments exist on both sides and they are not likely to dissipate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stepping up to the plate

Who's stepping up to the plate? Me, this week, as the others are off in sunny CA conferencing.
But also Logan Young, the Indiana teen who, along with her parents, filed a lawsuit against the Indiana High School Athletic Association which has a rule that bars girls from playing baseball when a school already has a softball team. Young, as part of an agreement between Young and her high school, will be allowed to try out for the team this coming March.
But her trying out was never really an issue. IHSAA had previously granted a waiver to another girl and had said it would do so for Young. The Youngs' lawsuit against IHSAA seeks to eliminate the rule. Thus that part of the lawsuit remains unsettled and, of course, unsettling. If the organization will just keep granting waivers when someone whispers "lawsuit" in their ears, why not just get rid of the silly rule.
There seems to be some fear about girls flooding the baseball fields and leaving boys softball I guess. Horrors!
At least that's the impression I get from this headline: Lawsuit's impact may limit opportunities. Unfortunately it's from the Herald Times out of Bloomington and it requires a subscription. [If anyone has one we would love to see the whole article/editorial.]

Monday, January 05, 2009

Changes to Ledbetter Imminent in New Administration

President-elect Obama and Democrats in Congress will give high priority to legislation that would overturn the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, yesterday's NY Times reported. In Ledbetter, the Court rejected that ongoing discrimination started a new statute of limitations every time it occurred. Thus, the plaintiff, Lilly Ledbetter, had to challenger her employer's salary decision, which she argued was discriminatory on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII, three months from when when her salary was first determined, rather than three months from any given paycheck. This interpretation of the statute of limitations is ridiculously stingy, since it often takes a little while before ongoing discrimination is apparent to a plaintiff. As a result plaintiffs are denied legal recourse in what may be valid discrimination cases, simply because the plaintiff they didn't notice the discrimination right away.

Because the Court's decision is based on an interpretation of a statutory provision, Congress can essentially void that interpretation by amending or superseding the statute in question. This is apparently exactly what the Democratic majority Congress, with the support of the new President, plan to do. Such anti-Ledbetter legislation would have an impact beyond employment discrimination cases under Title VII, as the decision has been used by lower courts to deny cases in a variety of civil rights contexts. We've seen one example already of the Ledbetter decision used to reject a Title IX suit filed by female wrestlers at the University of California at Davis, who tried to challenge discriminatory treatment that occurred between 2000 and 2001 and produced effects that lasted even longer. The lower court applied the Ledbetter rationale and a two year statute of limitations to conclude that a suit filed in 2003 was untimely -- the plaintiffs had to file two years from when the discriminatory treatment began in 2000. New legislation to restore the fairness of a longer statute of limitations would thus be beneficial to Title IX plaintiffs as well.