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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Soccer Field Harassment Case Survives Challenge

OCALA, Fla. (CN) - A Florida school board cannot dismiss claims that it turned a blind eye to the sexual harassment of female soccer players by their coaches, a federal judge ruled.

A pair of sisters, Stacey and Kathryn Bigge, say Citrus High School threatened to transfer them to a different school district in retaliation for the allegations.

Though Kathryn Bigge sued for retaliation, she does not appear to allege sexual harassment claims of her own. Kathryn was a graduating senior at Citrus in the 2008-09 school year when her sister allegedly endured sexual harassment on the junior varsity soccer team, which has three male coaches.

The girls sued along with the mother of a Stacey's teammate, A.S., naming the District School Board of Citrus County as a defendant in April 2011.

The school board moved to dismiss, but the court decided last week to dismiss only Kathryn Bigge's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.

As a graduating senior in fall 2008, "it is clear she is no longer a student at Citrus High School and does not have standing to seek prospective equitable relief."

There is no evidence at this juncture, however, to show that Stacey Bigge and A.S., who were a sophomore and freshman in the same year, no longer attend the school.

The school board also contends that the girls did not state that they were injured and that any injuries suffered were a result of the school board's negligence.

U.S. District Judge Terrell Hodges was not persuaded.

"The complaint alleges that Kathryn Bigge suffered an adverse action in the form of the school board's February 13, 2009 letter to her father stating that she would begin school in Sumter County on February 19, 2009," he wrote. "Although that transfer never in fact occurred, the threat of it alone is sufficient to arguably constitute an adverse action for purposes of establishing a Title IX prima facie case and surviving a motion to dismiss."

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