Friday, September 15, 2006

Scheduling Girls' Sports Off-Season Violates Title IX

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided last month that the Michigan High School Athletic Association's scheduling of several girls sports in the "off season" violated Title IX. Girls basketball in Michigan had been played in the fall, instead of winter, its traditional season. Soccer, volleyball, golf and swimming were also scheduled off season. In addition to many tangible disadvantages -- frozen fields, recruiting challenges, conflict with olympic development and other nonscholastic programs -- the court recognized that the off-season scheduling sent the message that girls sports were second class.

This is not the first time the Sixth Circuit has invalidated the high school sport schedule in Michigan. Two years ago, it held that off-season scheduling of girls' sports violated the Equal Protection Clause, but the Supreme Court vacated that decision because the Sixth Circuit did not consider whether Title IX's statutory remedy precluded Equal Protection relief. Last month's decision not only decided the Title IX issue on the merits, but also said that the potential availability of a remedy under Title IX does not preclude plaintiffs from seeking a remedy under the Equal Protection Clause.

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