Preliminary Injunction Granted in the Case of Title IX and Middle School Club Sports

Jan 13, 2023

By Rachel S. Silverman

This lawsuit involved female students who wanted to participate in the middle school club ice hockey team. The plaintiffs (Linnet Brooks, Aaron Brooks, Michael Lucy, Elizabeth Yoder, and Megan Abplanalp on behalf of their minor daughters) sought a declaratory judgment from the Court to resolve the alleged controversy about whether the State College Area School District (“the District”) was responsible for complying with and enforcing Title IX in club sports programs.

In the plaintiffs’ opening brief, the plaintiffs stated that the District declared that it had no Title IX responsibility for club sports. However, in the opposition brief, the District stated that it is not attempting to evade its Title IX responsibility and that the District agreed that Title IX applied to both club sports and intramural sports. In the plaintiffs’ reply brief, they acknowledged that both the defendants and the plaintiffs were now in agreement about Title IX applying to club sports.

Since both parties were now in agreement about Title IX and club sports, the Court found declaratory judgment unnecessary. However, the remaining disagreement was whether the District’s alleged conduct violated Title IX. The dispute is in the facts of the case and not in the initial questions regarding the District’s Title IX responsibilities in terms of club sports. The Court thus denied the plaintiffs’ Motion for Declaratory Judgment, but expected the plaintiffs to move forward in legal action against the District for their actions denying the female students the opportunity to play club ice hockey.

The Court thereafter granted the plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, stating that the District could not take further action that would exclude the plaintiffs from participating in the District’s ice hockey club program. Also, the District cannot relinquish any of its Title IX responsibilities to parent-run booster club organizations. Afterwards, the District was required to place the plaintiffs on an ice hockey club team roster, even if that meant the District would have to sponsor a second middle school ice hockey team. The District had to stop any efforts to block a second team from being added. To remedy the harm caused by the District’s actions, the District also had to recruit female students and promote female participation in its ice hockey club program.

The Court required that a status report be filed within 45 days of the preliminary injunction to update the Court on the District’s efforts to comply with these instructions.

References

Brooks v. State Coll. Area Sch. Dist. 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 217072