Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wisconsin Parents Claim Swim Team Facility Arrangements Were Retaliation for Earlier Complaint

In New Berlin, Wisconsin, student-athletes and parents are complaining that the school district's decision to relocate the Eisenhower High School girls' swim team practices and home meets to another high school's pool was retaliation for earlier complaints about gender equity in athletic facilities.

As we noted on this blog, the complaints by the swimmers and their parents alleged that the deteriorating condition of Eisenhower's pool amounted to sex discrimination when compared to the high school's recently-upgraded football facility. To the swimmers' disappointment, the school district responded to that complaint by upgrading its softball facility instead. To their further dismay, the school district then decided that the conditions of Eisenhower's pool were so bad that the team should no longer use it. For the season that just ended, the girls' swim team had to practice and compete at New Berlin West High School's pool.  (The two high schools field a combined boys' team, which also uses the West facility). However, the Eisenhower girls' diving team continues to use the Eisenhower pool for its competitions.

Parents say that this inconvenient arrangement is pay-back for the earlier complaints. According to the them, the team would have preferred using the Eisenhower pool for practices and holding its competitions at West.  And as evidenced by the fact that the pool still serves the diving team, it's not as if its condition foreclosed all use.  Yet, district officials deny the charge of retaliation, arguing that scheduling both meets and practices at the same higher-quality facility was advantageous for the girls. 

It does not appear that the parents have undertaken or are threatening any legal action against the school.  If they did, their biggest challenge would be proving that the district had a retaliatory motive when it decided to relocate a team's regular practice to the West facility, which would have to undermine the school district's non-discriminatory explanation for the decision.