Thursday, June 26, 2008

Settlement Will Force School District to Deal With Anti-Gay Bullies

The ACLU of Northern California announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Upper Lake Union School District, under which the district has agreed to undertake a list of protective measures designed to curb anti-gay harassment and discrimination.

ACLU's client is a middle school student named Robby who "can't remember a day at school when [he] wasn't called a faggot or gay." When Robby was beat up after gym class by classmates shouting "queer," Robby's parents got the ACLU involved. It does not appear that ACLU had to actually file a lawsuit to get the school district to agree to take remedial measures. This step was presumably not necessary because thanks to Title IX and California's anti-bully legislation, the district has a legal responsibility (not to mention a moral one) to take reasonable steps to protect students from anti-gay harassment.

Here is the list of things that the district agreed to do:
  • Revise the parent/student handbooks to include the antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies and the process for filing a complaint;
  • Designate an employee for each school to serve as the point person for school-based harassment;
  • Provide LGBT sensitivity materials to staff and discuss incidents of harassment at staff meetings;
  • Hire qualified trainers to educate students regarding the harmful effects of discrimination;
  • Implement the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network's "No Name Calling Week" curriculum and other programs that raise awareness about discrimination and homophobia; and
  • Support the maintenance of a Gay/Straight Alliance club at the middle school.
If you're an activist, feel free to copy and paste these handy bullet points into your own list of demands!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Interview with Pat Griffin

Two of my favorite bloggers contributed to the current "Pride Month" issue of the Beacon Broadside. Helen Wheelock of Women's Hoops Blog interviewed Dr. Pat Griffin, of It Takes A Team about homophobia in sport. Griffin has recently been involved in some very interesting work on the role of religion in college sports, which can intersect with and contribute to discrimination against gay and lesbian student-athletes. I'm glad Wheelock asked her about it (among other things):
....What challenges do gay athletes face when sports and religion intersect? How can coaches, even coaches at schools with policies that forbid homosexual conduct, support their gay and lesbian athletes?

....Coaches have a responsibility to create and maintain a religion-neutral environment on their teams, but some coaches invite or pressure athletes to attend chapel or Bible studies, to pray together or listen to Biblical quotes as part of their coaching. I think this is wrong, not only because it places lesbian and gay athletes at risk, but it also alienates anyone on the team who does not share the coach's particular faith. College and high school sports are not church leagues.

I support every athlete's and coach's right to their personal religious or spiritual beliefs as well as their right to individually express that belief, but I think there is a little too much tolerance in athletics for mixing evangelical Christianity with athletics. I would hope that even in religious schools where homosexuality is specifically condemned that coaches and athletes would treat gay and lesbian teammates with respect.

On other topics with Title IX relevance, Griffin praised the NCAA for incorporating a more inclusive message into its athlete training workshops, and pointed out the particular vulnerability of female coaches to direct discrimination and tactics like negative recruiting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Male coaches win jury verdict in discrimination, harassment case

A jury in Hattiesburg, Mississippi awarded over $1 million to three former coaches -- all men -- who had sued the University of Southern Mississippi, alleging they were victims of discrimination and harassment because of their sex. According to the Hattiesburg American, the plaintiffs, John Vincent, John Mollaghan, and Ged O'Connor were the coaching staff of the women's soccer team until they were terminated in 2000. Vincent, the former head coach, had alleged that he lost his job in retaliation for resisting the sexual advances of a female athletic administrator, the Senior Woman Administrator. The plaintiffs also alleged that it was "made very clear" to them at the time of their termination that USM "preferred to have a woman coaching the women's soccer team."

Vincent received $500K from the jury; Mollaghan $376K, and O'Connor $300K.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy 36th Anniversary, Title IX

36 years ago today, President Nixon signed the Education Amendments of 1972 into law. Its most famous provision, Title IX, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by educational institutions that receive federal funds.

Unfortunately, pointing out the age of Title IX runs the risk of feeding the misconception that the statute has been around for more than enough time to eradicate sex discrimination in curricular and extracurricular aspects of education -- a belief that underscores arguments that its time to "retire" Title IX. So while commemorating Title IX on its anniversary, I want to also point also out that despite the statute's 36 years, Title IX enforcement -- especially in the context of athletics -- is not nearly so old. Opponents tied up the enforcement regulations governing athletics with political and judicial battles throughout the 1970s and 80s, and even succeeded in getting the Supreme Court to hold the statute inapplicable to programs, like athletics, that don't directly receive federal funds. Even though Congress amended the legislation several years later to restore Title IX's applicability to athletics, the Reagan and Bush administrations weren't exactly enthusiastic about enforcing Title IX's mandate. In fact, it wasn't really until the Supreme Court held in 1992 that plaintiffs could sue institutions under Title IX for money damages that they began taking compliance seriously. Judicial confirmation that Title IX's private right of action extends to sexual harassment by one's peers, and retaliation against third parties, is an even more recent development.

So Happy 36th Anniversary to Title IX...
...And Happy 20th Anniversary to the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (Mar. 22, 1988)... And Happy 16th Anniversary to Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (Feb. 26, 1992)...And Happy 9th Anniversary to Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (May 24, 1999)...And Happy 3rd Anniversary to Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education (March 29, 2005)...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fresno State drops appeal of Johnson-Klein verdict; agrees to $9 million settlement

Fresno State will drop its appeal of Stacy Johnson-Klein's jury verdict, a $19.1 million figure that the court later reduced to $6.6 million, plus $2.5 million in attorney's fees and $700,000 in court costs. The university has agreed to pay Johnson-Klein a total of $9 million--which includes attorneys fees and costs -- over the course of 23 years.

Johnson-Klein, the former women's basketball coach, sued the university last year. The jury found that she was fired in retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination and harassment within the athletic department. (What a difference a year makes, huh? Fresno State reportedly turned down Johnson-Klein's offer to settle before the trial for $950,000.)

This seems like a pretty good deal for Johnson-Klein, as it is only a slight reduction from the $9.8 million she and her lawyers would have received in total if the district court's ruling had stood. However, as the Fresno Bee notes, the payout will actually cost the university considerably less than $9 million because it includes annuities for Johnson-Klein's six children, which the university can purchase at a discount. That discount, along with the long-term payment schedule, must have been important to Fresno State, as that seems like the only real concession Johnson-Klein had to make to get the university to drop its appeal.

Here's hoping that Fresno State will resolve Lindy Vivas's case in similar fashion. Vivas, the former volleyball coach, also convinced a jury that the university had fired her in retaliation for her opposition to sex discrimination in the department. The university is still appealing the jury award she received last summer, a $5.8 million figure that was later reduced to $4.52 million, plus attorney's fees.

[Thanks, W!]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You knew it was coming

The recent spate of studies and articles on injury rates--most of which focus on ACL tears--in female athletes could be part of a trend of inferiorizing the female body, which of course has ramifications for women's sports and female athletes and future female athletes. Maybe I am sounding the alarm a little early here, but this article in Science News that is reporting on a study of amenorrhea in young (teenage or early 20s) female athletes makes me nervous. If you have read Patricia Vertinsky's excellent book The Eternally Wounded Woman you will know why.
As much as research like Michael Sokolove's on ACL tears and even other studies on injuries like concussions provide often good evidence of the cultural factors that influence injury rates, we cannot control or predict how such work will be received. The media that reports on these studies serves as receptor and purveyor of this information and the coverage of this research never fails to mention Title IX. The suggestion is out there for those who want to take it (and do very bad things with it): equality has hurt--literally--women. No one is saying that outright. Most of the work and press mentions the benefits of sport and exercise. But in a culture that already largely believes that women's bodies are weaker such seemingly extreme interpretations of these studies are not out of the realm of possibility.
And as problematic as I find some of the coverage of ACL injuries to be, I am more concerned about this Harvard/Mass General study about amenorrhea. Because knees can be fixed or even replaced if need be. But start talking about a woman's reproductive system and people get a little panicky. The article reports that a quarter of high school and college athletes stop having their period "at some point" which results in "temporary infertility."
The article does point out that this is easily reversible, could be a result of evolutionary tactics that prevent pregnancy in bodies that cannot sustain them, and is not as severe as the other consequence: loss of bone density.
But it's already out there: interruptions in the reproductive system. Never mind that most of these women aren't really all that keen on getting pregnant anyway or that many of them could be on birth control--also something that results in temporary infertility.
And of course, at the end of the article, we get the Title IX mention:
With the 1972 law change called Title IX that ensures girls get equal treatment to boys in educational and athletic programs, more girls have become involved in sports during adolescence. While that has been good in general, [Misra, study's co-author] says, it might also explain why amenorrhea has become more prevalent in recent decades.
Or it could be the rise in eating disorders, which certainly as afflicted female athletes. Or it could be environmental factors. Or it could be specialization. Or it could be a combination of these things. But I am pretty sure that passing a law that mandates equity didn't result in girls' periods stopping.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wrestling Coach's Retaliation Claim Survives Summary Judgment

Joseph Sabol, former wrestling coach at Montclair State University, won a legal victory earlier this month when a federal district judge in New Jersey denied MSU's motion for summary judgment on Sabol's retaliation lawsuit. Sabol sued the school after he was passed over for the full time head wrestling coach position, despite serving as the part time head coach for one year, because he complained about inferior equipment and the security of the locker room and because he had argued to the AD on behalf of his assistant coach who was facing discipline that was allegedly harsher than what female coaches had received in comparable circumstances.

Despite the efforts of MSU, the district court did not dismiss Sabol's Title VII, Title IX, and state antidiscrimination law claims, holding that Sabol had presented sufficient evidence to raise the possibility that a jury could find in his favor.

Sabol's case presents a claim of gender discrimination that is the reverse of many of the high profile Title IX retaliation cases we've blogged so much about, like Fresno State and FGCU. Here we have a male coach terminated by a (female*) AD in alleged retaliation for his efforts to ensure equal treatment for his men's team. But it's not surprising that of all the men's athletics programs, it would be a wrestling coach litigating a case that is, but for the plaintiff's gender, very similar to the spate of female coaches' retaliation claims we've recently seen. Wrestling is, for whatever reason**, treated like the ugly stepson of men's athletics, a marginalized position not unlike that which is occupied by women's sports -- the difference is that no women's sports are favored to same the degree as football, so women sports can often better avail themselves of Title IX protections.

In other words, while wrestlers and wrestling coaches may experience discrimination, it is hard to characterize this as sex discrimination in light of the fact that men's sports are more privileged on the whole. This case is no different. The thrust of Sabol's case is that he was passed over because he advocated better treatment for the wrestling program and its coaches, but the only direct gender comparison in Sabol's complaint is his allegation that the AD disciplined his assistant coach more harshly than female coaches. I agree with the district court that it's possible he could convince a jury that he was retaliated against for objecting to this particular inequity, but it will certainly be difficult to prove that this single incident was the reason he wasn't hired. His claim that he was retaliated for being a staunch supporter of wrestling has more support, but this, unfortunately for Sabol, is not sex discrimination.

Decision is: Sabol v. Montclair State University, 2008 WL 2354553 (D.N.J. June 3, 2008).

* To make my point of comparison, I am focusing on the gender of the plaintiff and his student-athletes and not the gender of the AD, which is of little significance in my opinion. Wrestling gets the shaft in athletic departments run by men as well. Moreover, a number of the current retaliation cases brought by female coaches implicate a female president (Feather River College), a female AD (University of Nevada, Reno), or the Senior Woman Administrator (FGCU, Tennessee-Martin).

**My theory is that wrestling is marginalized because it strikes people as a little bit queer, what with the men in tight outfits grappling other men on mats. If this is right, maybe wrestler discrimination could constitute sex discrimination on a theory of gender nonconformity?

Monday, June 16, 2008

WaPo on single-sex classrooms

The Washington Post ran a feature on the growing trend of single-sex classrooms in public schools. I am not going to go into all the reasons why we here at the Title IX blog think single-sex education is very problematic--you can click on the tag below to find that out.
I don't have to actually because, in part, the article itself illustrates--if you want to see it--some of the ridiculousness. Simply read the opening paragraphs about a classroom in which girls sit politely and read pretty poetry and another down the hall where boys are sprawled about the classroom reading poetry about being hunters. The language the writers themselves choose to describe the situations they witness says it all. The stereotypes are there--we create them and we reify them.
Why do the girls sit "politely"?--because that's what girls have been taught to do. Why do boys do backbends over their chairs?--because that's what they're allowed to do--because they're boys with allegedly uncontrollable desires to be moving all the time. I liked doing backbends over furniture when I was little too--except I did it at home. If it was acceptable school behavior, I would have done it there too.
These pieces are so frustrating because they spend so much time indulging the stereotypes and so little time engaging with the experts and the studies. And even when doing the former, they fail to acknowledge the inconsistencies. For example, the WaPo article mentions that the boys' classroom has desks that are scattered throughout the room, which gives the boys more room to move around. But the teacher said he moved the desks because they boys were engaging in a "female trait": chitchatting. So chitchatting is bad but crawling around the floor is just fine apparently because the former is something girls do and the latter is something boys. Never mind that both would seem to disturb the classroom, the teacher, and other students.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kansas School District Avoids Liability for Athletes' Harassment Due to Lack of Notice

A case that raised an interesting question about a school's liability under Title IX for students' sexual abuse in an extracurricular program run by non-employee was instead resolved in the school's favor on other grounds this week.

For many years, male student-athletes in the Liberal, Kansas, public schools availed themselves of an extracurricular weight training programs run by John Aubrey. Aubrey's program ran out of his home, though he was given access to school facilities for the purpose of conducting weigh-ins. Students allege that Aubrey abused them in various ways, including questionably massages, "sex talks," instructing one student to practice putting on a condom, encouraging students to masturbate, and having boys watch sex videos. Three students, including the one who initially reported Aubrey's conduct, filed suit against both Aubrey and the Liberal School District, claiming among other things that the school district is liable under Title IX for its deliberate indiffernce to the sexual abuse that was taking place under the auspices of a school-sanctioned program. But the court did not reach the interesting question of whether a schools' liability under Title IX even potentially applies a weight training program that is not run by a school employee, but that is apparently endorsed by the school and which provides school access for at least some part of the program. Rather, the district court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment on this issue because of the absence of evidence that the school knew about Aubrey's misconduct while it was ongoing. Once the student reported it, Aubrey's weight training program was curtailed and no further abuse occurred.

A related claim Title IX claim, however, did survive the district's summary judgment motion. The student who reported Aubrey's misconduct suffered ongoing harassment at the hands of his peers as a result, to which he alleged the district failed to adequately respond. The court agreed with the plaintiff that this claim is viable, since the facts alleged would, if proven, satisfy the standard of liability under Title IX.

Moreover, the court denied the school district's efforts to dispose of the plaintiffs' claims under state law that the district is vicariously liable for Aubrey's tortious conduct and that the district itself was negligent in its supervision and "hiring" of Mr. Aubrey. Those claims will, barring settlement, proceed to trial.

Decision is: C.T. v. Liberal School District, 2008 WL 2358667 (D. Kan. June 10, 2008).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

ACLU Files Suit Over Single-Sex Education

On behalf of students and parents in Kentucky, the ACLU is suing the Department of Education over the 2006 regulations that relaxed restrictions on single-sex education. This challenge arises in the context of a lawsuit over sex-segregated classrooms in the Breckinridge County Middle School, which the ACLU argues violate Title IX, the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and Kentucky law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. The county board of education and various officials are also defendants.

According to the complaint, BCMS began to segregate math and science classes in 2003 and offer “differentiated instruction” to boys and girls -- including softer lighting in girls' classrooms, tougher math problems in boys' classrooms, hands-on and demonstrative teaching methods in girls' classrooms, and activities and "games" in boys' classrooms. Since 2003, BCMS has expanded the single-sex framework to other courses, and some officials have recommended eliminating coed classes altogether. While BCMS initially offered parents the opportunity to opt out of single-sex classes, this option was not presented to all parents in the most recent school year. Moreover, the coed alternatives that did were available had different textbooks, scope of coverage, and teaching methods such that the parents did not find to be substantially equal to the segregated classes.

ACLU alleges that BCMS's sex-segregation policy, and the Department of Education regulations on which BCMS ostensibly relied, violate Title IX, which prohibits schools from denying educational opportunities to students on the basis of sex. Also, the Department's unreasonable interpretation of its statutory mandate violates the Administrative Procedure Act. Moreover, the ACLU alleges, the regulations are unconstitutional because the do not require schools to have an "exceedingly persuasive justification" behind its decision to segregate, or that segregated classrooms bear a "substantial relationship to an important state interest" as required by the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

For prior posts about the constitutionality of single-sex education, see here and here.

New (old) book

The Feminist Majority Foundation last year updated its 1985 handbook, Achieving Gender Equity through Education. Eleanor Smeal, president of the foundation and publisher of Ms. has written the forward to the new edition.
More information can be found here on FMF's website.
The book is also reviewed in the latest issue of Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources (Volume 29, Number 1, Winter 2008).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Will Government Continue to Interfere in College Sports?

In the current issue of Journal of College and University Law, University of Massachusetts professors Todd Crosset and Lisa Masteralexis suggest that state regulation of gender equity in college athletics is "on the brink of change." They argue that sociologically speaking, the state regulates private associations only when certain conditions are met -- conditions which existed in 1972 when Title IX was passed, but are increasingly less relevant today. Expanding alternatives to intercollegiate sports for participants, the increasing commercialization of college sport, and the decreasing educational relevance of college sports, they argue, have all made it less likely that the state will continue to intervene in private, institutional affairs by legislating gender equity, and more likely that market forces will take over.

Citation: Todd Crosset & Lisa Masteralexis, The Changing Collective Definition of Collegiate Sport and the Potential Demise of Title IX Protections, 34 J. College & Univ. L. 671 (2008).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oregon Wrestlers File Suit

On behalf of the disappointed wrestlers at the University of Oregon, Equity in Athletics has sued the University of Oregon over its decision to cut wrestling when it added baseball last year.

According to an EIA press release and, the state court complaint alleges that the University's decision to cut wrestling was procedurally flawed and that substantively, it violates the equal protection clause of Oregon's constitution as well as the state's antidiscrimination law, Section 659.850. University officials have acknowledged that Title IX did not require them to cut wrestling when they added baseball, and that they selected wrestling for elimination based on other criteria, including lack of a facility, lack of competition, and absence of fan support. EIA argues that the University should have applied this same criteria to both men’s and women’s teams in deciding what sports to cut, pointing out that women's lacrosse and competitive cheerleading also lack competition and support.

On the other hand, since women are already underrepresented in Oregon's athletic opportunities, cutting women's team would have a more discriminatory impact than cutting a men's team. It certainly would violate Title IX for the school to cut a viable women's team in light of the existing gender disparity in opportunities. For this reason, I'm not sure that EIA's argument that Oregon should have cut a women's team instead will carry much weight.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Supreme Court Will Resolve Circuit Split on Title IX's Preemption of 1983 Claims

The Supreme Court just announced that it will review the First Circuit's decision in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee. As you may recall from prior posts (see here and here) the dispute in this case was whether the school district responded adequately to the sexual harassment of a kindergarten girl by a third-grade boy who rode the same bus. The First Circuit held that the school district satisfied its obligation under Title IX to avoid "deliberate indifference" to the kindergartner's plight once the harassment became known to appropriate officials -- even though the district did not suspend the boy from the riding the bus. In addition, the First Circuit refused to consider the plaintiffs' constitutional claims filed via the remedial statute, 42 U.S.C. 1983, holding that the potential availability of relief under Title IX preempts additional, constitutional claims. The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari (review by the Supreme Court), which the Court granted today.

The circuit split on this issue clearly contributed to the Court's decision to grant cert. The Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits all allow plaintiffs to bring both Title IX and 1983/constitutional claims for the same conduct. See Communities for Equity v. MHSAA, 459 F.3d 676 (6th Cir. 2006); Crawford v. Davis, 109 F.3d 1281, (8th Cir. 1997); Seamons v. Snow, 84 F.3d 1226 (10th Cir. 1996). The First, Second, Third, and Seventh Circuits have all held that Title IX preempts 1983/constitutional claims. Fitzgerald v. Barnstable Sch. Comm., 504 F.3d 165 (1st Cir. 2007); Bruneau v. S. Kortright Cent. Sch. Dist., 163 F.3d 749 (2d Cir. 1998); Williams v. Sch. Dist. of Bethlehem, 998 F.2d 168 (3d Cir. 1993); Waid v. Merrill Area Pub. Sch., 91 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 1996).

The availability of both Title IX and constitutional remedies is important to sexual harassment plaintiffs like the Fitzgeralds because constitutional claims are not subject to the case law limiting liability to cases involving "deliberate indifference." Moreover, unlike Title IX claims, which may only proceed against institutions, 1983 plaintiffs may sue individuals who were acting "under color of law" when violating the plaintiff's constitutional rights. Lastly, some courts have held that Title IX plaintiffs are not entitled to punitive damages, a remedy that 1983 allows.

Stay tuned for the Court's resolution of this important question.

h/t to Paul Secunda. See his post at Workplace Prof Blog here.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

S.D. Harassment Case Survives Summary Judgment

In South Dakota, a teacher-student sexual harassment case survived the school district's motion for summary judgment. Consistent with other cases, the federal magistrate rejected the district's argument that other victims' complaints about this teacher in the past did not constitute actual notice of the teacher's harassment of this particular student plaintiff as a matter of law. The magistrate held that it is up to the jury to decide whether those prior complaints about the teacher put the district on notice of the teacher's propensity for harassing behavior and triggered an obligation to act reasonably to protect the students in his charge.

Decision is: Plamp v. Mitchell School District 7-12, 2008 WL 2277519 (D.S.D. June 3, 2008).
See also this story in the Mitchell Daily Republic.

Friday, June 06, 2008

V-Ball Coach Weighs in on Lawsuit(s)

The College Volleyball Coach blog has a good post about the Tennessee-Martin case, putting it into context with the other volleyball coach lawsuits we've seen recently at Fresno State and FGCU. Among other fine points, the author surmises that until volleyball coaches have the bargaining power to negotiate employment contracts with "safety nets," like football and basketball coaches have, "Athletic Directors are able terminate volleyball coaches with very little cost."

This point highlights one of the reasons why this new trend of anti-retaliation litigation is so important -- the threat of litigation adds to the cost of firing a coach, helping to ensure that the AD is basing employment decisions on genuine performance concerns rather than discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

Oregon Teacher's Retaliation Case Settles

A gender discrimination lawsuit between a teacher and her Oregon school district that we blogged about last fall settled this week for $20,000. The teacher had sued the Salem-Keizer School District, alleging that her after she reported harassment by her fellow teachers, she was retaliated against with unsatisfactory performance reviews. After a mediation, the parties agreed to a settlement amount designed to cover the plaintiff's legal fees, and also to expunge the negative reviews from her record.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Moving forward with women's wrestling at YVCC?

It seems that coaches and supporters of men's wrestling at Yakima Valley Community College are moving ahead with plans to add women to their team in the hopes of saving the men's program which was slated to be cut. [Click on the YVCC tag for past posts on this situation.] The goals of co-head coach Mike Schmitt are to raise money to support women initially as part of the men's team and then create a separate team for them. But even as he and others are planning, the administration continues to pull on the reins of reality.
And here is some of the reality:
Despite the popularity of women's wrestling in Washington, and its growing popularity elsewhere it has not become a sanctioned or emerging sport. YVCC is a member of NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) which does not sanction women's wrestling. The women can compete with the men, though (not because of Title IX, which has a contact sport exemption--but because of an equal protection argument).
Another reality is that YVCC has a Title IX problem in the form of an ongoing, unresolved complaint from 2002. Sixty-seven percent of its undergrads are women and according to the VP for Instruction and Student Services Tomas Ybarra this makes it impossible to comply with prong one. I take a little bit of exception with the impossibility of the situation, but given YVCC's budget woes--which include the inability to fund a women's wrestling program, another reality check--it does not seem like proportionality is short-term option for the school. Ybarra and other administrators are working with OCR to try to come into compliance with either prong 2 or 3 at this point.
So while Ybarra is saying things like this:
"We haven't decided whether we are in a position to go ahead with the concept of accepting women as a part of the men's team," he said. "We're not in a position to make that decision yet, nor are our resources sufficient to support another team. We're not ready to make a decision quite yet. But we're working on it."
Schmitt and other supporters are talking like this:
"We're fundraising like crazy. I think it's going to be huge because of the growth of girls [sic]wrestling, not only within the state but throughout the country. We've received six verbal commitments so far, and none happen to be from Washington."
I imagine there will be future posts about this struggle.

Monday, June 02, 2008

HS Golfer Awarded $19K in Discrimination Claim

Remember Lindsey Thomka? She's on the boy's only golf team at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts, but in 2005, she wasn't allowed to compete individually in the state tournament for boys golf, despite finishing fourth in the regional qualifier. Last year, the Hampden County Superior Court ruled that Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's policy that excluded Thomka violated the state constitution's equal rights amendment.

Thanks to a ruling by the same court last week, Thomka's lawyer will get paid. Barring a successful appeal, MIAA must pay over $19,000 in attorneys fees to Thomka's family. Attorneys fee awards are important equalizers in discrimination cases like this one, where the discrimination, while actual and unlawful, does not cause a harm that can be remedied with money damages. Attorneys fees operate to deter institutions from engaging in unlawful discrimination, and they make it a little easier for civil rights plaintiffs' lawyers to stay in business. (Thomka's lawyer had not billed her family for his legal services.)

Thomka graduates this week and will play golf at Elon College in North Carolina next year.

[thanks, Jeff!]

Gender gaps in math: A new study says it's nurture, not nature

New research published in the journal Science (subscription required to see full article) finds that any gender gap between boys and girls in math achievement "disappears" in countries with higher levels of gender equity. The research, reported in The Guardian (UK), looked at 40 countries, and found that those nations with equal access to education, as well as other opportunities and support for girls, showed no gender gap in math scores. When it comes to reading, girls in "equal opportunity" countries tended to do significantly better than boys. This last finding may beg the question of whether more research is needed to figure out how best to support boys to become equally accomplished readers.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

More on the Gender Gap in Coaching Salaries

John Wolohan and Laura Bowman's article "Check Swing" (nice!) in the current issue of Athletic Business explores the legal issues surrounding the gender gap in coaching salaries, an issue that has been receiving some press lately.

The authors examine the Equal Pay Act's applicability to coaches' salaries using as an example a lawsuit by Cara Hankinson, who sued the Thomas County, Georgia school district to challenge the salary she was paid as the softball coach, which was less than what the baseball coach was paid. The district court had denied her claim, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed the ruling and required the district court to determine whether the baseball coach's job is substantially similar to Hankinson's job coaching softball, as she had alleged. In Thomas County, the baseball coach's responsibilities included more games, longer games, and more players that the softball coach, but on the other hand, the baseball coach was given more assistant coaches to help him out. This made the similarity of the jobs in subject to dispute, and thus inappropriate to dismiss without a trial.

The authors point out that the court's reasoning is consistent with the guidance that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides (Notice No. 915.002) on this issue. The EEOC says that while coaching positions are substantially similar, there are legitimate justifications for paying coaches different salaries, such as the market value of the coach's particular skills and qualifications, different levels of experience, and a greater range of duties. It remains to be seen whether Thomas County can successfully prove that the baseball coach had a greater range of duties to justify his higher salary. But, as the authors conclude, what is clear is that "the gender of the coach — or of the athletes under the coach's care — is not considered an acceptable factor in trying to justify paying one coach less than another."