The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that Title IX protections apply to sports scheduling, in addition to funding.
Noting that non-primetime games result in a loss of audience, conflict with homework, and foster feelings of inferiority, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that discriminatory scheduling practices are actionable through a Title IX gender discrimination lawsuit.
Amber Parker and Tammy Hurley filed identical gender discrimination lawsuits on behalf of their minor daughters, both of whom played on Franklin County High School's girls' varsity basketball team.
The Indiana girls' high school basketball season starts two weeks before the boys' basketball season. During those first two weeks, the girls' teams play on Friday and Saturday nights, which are considered primetime slots. During those weeks, the bleachers are packed, and the band, cheerleaders, and dance teams perform. The atmosphere is electric.
Once the boys' season starts, 95 percent the boys' games are on primetime nights while only 53 percent of the girls' games are on primetime nights, reports IndyStar.com. The girls' team is largely banished to non-primetime, weeknight games. The bleachers are empty, the cheerleaders are absent, and the players are left struggling to keep up with their school assignments.
Parker and Hurley filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Franklin and conference and non-conference school districts that agreed by contract to play the Franklin girls' basketball team, hoping to rectify the problem.
An Indiana district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment defendants' on the plaintiffs' Title IX claims upon finding as a matter of law that the game scheduling "did not result in a disparity so substantial that it denied the plaintiffs equality of athletic opportunity."
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.
The court found that there was a systemic disparity in primetime game scheduling between the boys' and girls' teams, and the disparate scheduling created a cyclical effect that stifled community support, prevented the development of a fan base, and discouraged females from participating in a traditionally male-dominated sport.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that "these harms are not insignificant" and reinstated the gender discrimination lawsuit.
If you handle civil rights cases, particularly gender discrimination lawsuits, prepare to hear from parents' of female athletes: We expect this case to prompt more parents to bring Title IX claims if the schools don't act to correct scheduling disparities.
- Parker v. Franklin County Community School (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)
- U.S. appeals court overturns ruling in Indiana Title IX case (HighSchoolSports.net)
- 9th Cir. Overturned by SCOTUS in Walmart Class Action Lawsuit (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit blog)