California Judge Grants Softball Players’ Motion in Title IX Dispute

May 8, 2009

A district court has held that a San Diego area school district violated Title IX when it fostered an environment of “significant gender-based disparity” that penalized its female student athletes.
In ruling for the plaintiffs, who were softball players at Castle Park High School, the court agreed with the young women that the Sweetwater Union High School District maintained better sports facilities for the boys’ teams, and afforded female student athletes fewer opportunities to participate in athletics.
The plaintiffs had initially sought to resolve the claim without going to court, approaching Castle Park’s athletic director in the spring of 2006 to complain. Dissatisfied with the result, the plaintiffs sought help from the California Women’s Law Center
in Los Angeles and The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco.
In April 2007, the plaintiffs sued, asking the school district to repair what had become “inadequate, and at times dangerous, practice and competitive facilities.”
The plaintiffs also alleged many other violations, including the fact that:
• Physical education classes play on the girls’ softball field but not on the boys’ baseball field;
• The softball bleachers are dilapidated compared with those for the baseball field;
• The boys have two batting cages, while the girls had one, which had fallen into disrepair;
• The boys’ field is enclosed by security fencing, while the girls’ field is not; and
• Parents have been barred from assisting with softball coaching and from running a snack stand during games, while those prohibitions do not apply to boys’ teams.
In siding with the plaintiffs, the court noted evidence presented by the plaintiffs that showed that while female enrollment at Castle Park was around 45 to 50 percent over the last decade, female participation in athletics had grown only from 33 to 41 percent during that period. The court held that the district also failed other elements of Title IX by failing to show a continuing practice of expanding opportunities for girls and/or demonstrating that female interest and abilities have been accommodated.
“I hope this order serves as a wake-up call to other high schools that they must bring their athletic programs into compliance,” Vicky Barker, legal director of the California Women’s Law Center, said in a statement.
Veronica Ollier et al. v. Sweetwater Union High School District et al; S. D. Cal.; 3:07-cv-00714-L-WMC; 4/19/07


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