Saturday, April 09, 2016

Oregon High School Softball Team Sues District Over Unequal Facilities

School officials in Lake Oswego, Oregon, allegedly told the high school girls' softball team that they would have to win a state championship before the school would upgrade their facilities to match the level of quality that the boys' baseball team receives.  In a lawsuit challenging this disparity in treatment under Title IX, the softball player-plaintiffs strike back, pointing out the unfairness of holding them to such a high standard while refusing to improve the level of support for the team.

In the lawsuit, the softball players allege that their facilities at a nearby junior high school consist of a dirt field with poor drainage that often requires them to cancel games due to poor conditions.  They also lack designated locker room and basic amenities like water fountains.  Meanwhile the boys' baseball team plays in a stadium at the high school that is decked out with artificial turf, locker rooms, pitching machines, an enclosed batting area, a press box, sound systems, water fountains, and well-maintained bathrooms.

The school district claims that improvements to the softball field are being made, though if this is their only defense, that would not be enough to dismiss a Title IX challenge. Title IX requires that schools provide equal treatment to their boys' and girls' athletics programs overall.  It is not necessary to treat all sports equally or provide similar treatment to the boys and girls teams in the same (or similar) sport. Theoretically, a school court argue that (for example) a world-class swimming facility for the girls, if it had one, swim team offsets the similar level of luxury that the boys' baseball team enjoys.  However, intra-sport or similar-sport comparisons usually end up being good indicators of overall disparity in support for the boys and girls programs in the aggregate.