A sixth-grade boy identified as J.S. and his father filed the 14-page lawsuit against the Laurel County Board of Education, its superintendent and athletic director in London, Kentucky, federal court Wednesday. They are represented by attorney Bill Meader.
According to the complaint, a so-called “play up, stay up” rule allegedly discriminates on the basis of sex because it only applies to boys in violation of equal protection laws and Title IX.
“Under this rule, if J.S. chooses/is chosen to play with the 7th grade team, he can never return to play with the 6th grade team; if he chooses/is chosen to play with the 8th grade team, he can never return to play with either the 6th grade team or the 7th grade team,” the complaint states. “By contrast, 6th or 7th grade female basketball players…have recently been permitted to play up and then play down on multiple teams as they and their coach(es) see fit.”
The boy’s father, Jackie Steele, says they have complained about the rule several times, including having their attorney send a letter requesting the rule be changed or thrown out.
After a closed school board session regarding the matter, board attorney Larry Bryson sent a reply letter stating that Steele and his son aren’t the first to challenge the rule, according to the lawsuit.
“There has been no shortage of advocates who seek to have the same Title IX rules applied to boys’ teams as girls’ teams, but the courts have steadfastly failed to buy into this argument citing the long history of inequity for girls’ teams as the reason for the courts’ approach,” the letter allegedly said.
Steele seeks a permanent injunction ordering the school board to immediately allow his son to play basketball at multiple grade levels. He also wants compensatory, general and punitive damages along with attorney’s fees and costs.
Neither his attorney nor the school board immediately responded Thursday to email requests for comment.