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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Rejects Challenge|to High Schools’ Title IX

(CN) - The American Sports Council cannot proceed with a claim accusing the Department of Education of illegally enforcing Title IX rules on high school sports programs that American Sports claimed amounted to "federal gender quotas."

American Sports sued after the department refused to consider a petition to amend or repeal rules applying Title IX guidelines to high schools. American Sports argued that high schools were not required to use "strict gender quotas" to balance their athletic departments, and said the guidelines violate the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.

Signed into law in 1972, Title IX states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal assistance."

American Sports claimed 1979 amended guidelines on implementation of Title IX had resulted in "tens of thousands" of lost athletic activities for students.

"The threat of unfair Title IX enforcement on high school sports has been a national issue ever since the National Women's Law Center filed complaints with (the department's) Office of Civil Rights, alleging discrimination against female athletes in 12 different school districts based solely on the gender balance in their sports programs," American Sports said in a press release.

The press release went on to say that American Sports had advised school districts that Title IX's three-prong test of compliance did not apply to high schools.

The Department of Education moved to dismiss American Sports' complaint, saying that American Sports lacked standing to sue.

American Sports claimed it was suing as an association made up of student athletes, parents, and coaches who are harmed by the application of Title IX to high schools.

But Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle found that American Sports did not show that it represented members had standing to sue on their own or that its "purported members" had suffered an actual injury from the additional Title IX guidelines.

Further, Huvelle found that American Sports "does not claim to represent the direct object of defendants' regulations," - namely, the high schools that are required to follow the Title IX regulations to which American Sports objects.

And the remedy American Sports requested would not necessarily be the solution to the supposed problem, Huvelle found.

"Plaintiff's petition calls for a repeal as applied to high schools of the 1979, 1996, 2003 and 2005 regulations, but neither Title IX itself nor the 1975 implementing regulations," Huvelle wrote. "Thus, even if this Court were to grant the sought-after relief and order defendants to initiate rulemaking pursuant to plaintiff's Petition, third party high schools would still have the discretion to eliminate (plaintiff's members') programs, as necessary, to comply with the gender equity mandate of Title IX." (parenthesis in original)

Driving closer toward the high schools themselves, American Sports claimed that high school "administrators have expressed concerns over the ramifications to student athletes of having to comply with the proportionality mandates of the Three-Part Test."

But "those concerns do not change the fact that it is 'purely speculative that a requested change in government policy will alter the behavior of regulated third parties that are the direct cause of plaintiff's injuries,'" Huvelle wrote, quoting from a related case.

American Sports next claimed that the department's refusal to rescind the three-part test as it applies to high schools interferes with American Sports' mission of "preserving and promoting opportunities for students to participate in organized athletics at the collegiate and high school levels."

And American Sports said its activities were impeded because it had to divert resources to push back against "activist campaigns in support of a gender quota."

Those arguments lacked evidence of clear causation traceable to the Department of Education, Huvelle found.

American Sports claimed, "without any supporting facts," that the department's denial of its petition directly caused "activist campaigns" to file administrative complaints seeking to force the application of Title IX on high schools, according to the ruling.

"Based on plaintiff's pleadings, even if this Court were to grant the requested relief, the decision of third party activist groups to file Title IX administrative complaints against school districts would remain a matter within the discretion of those groups," Huvelle wrote.

In an emailed statement Eric Pearson, Chairman of the American Sports Council, told Courthouse News the court's ruling was "unfortunate" and said "justice has been denied to high school male athletes nationwide who have been and who will continue to be harmed by these unreasonable regulations."

"But we remain undeterred," Pearson wrote. "The American Sports Council will continue to advocate for reforming Title IX regulations on behalf of the thousands of high school athletes who are denied equal protection under the law because of gender quota enforcement."

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