SAN DIEGO (CN) — A lawsuit accusing the California State University system of intentionally discriminating against female athletes by not giving them as much financial aid as male athletes will move forward after a federal judge in San Diego denied most of the CSU board of trustees and San Diego State University's motion to dismiss the case.
“This is a major victory for the female athletes,” said Arthur Bryant, the athletes’ lawyer.
In February 2022 a group of current and past female student athletes at San Diego State sued claiming that the school and the CSU board of trustees violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender. They say the school was not paying female athletes an equal amount of financial aid as their male peers for over a decade and that between 2018 and 2020, female athletes at the school got $1.2 million less in athletic aid while male student athletes got $1.2 million more.
Days after the students filed their lawsuit, the coach of the women’s track and field team held a Zoom meeting with her team, which included five of the plaintiffs. The coach called the five women out specifically and said she was disappointed in them, thought the lawsuit was a distraction, and that students who participated or assisted with the lawsuit could be taken off the team.
The athletes claim the meeting dissuaded a number of other female student athletes from joining an amended complaint, and it made the student athletes embarrassed, humiliated, and left them feeling like second-class citizens.
The CSU trustees and San Diego State pushed for dismissal, arguing some of the athletes lacked standing as former athletes, former students, or students who weren’t on the Zoom conference call, and because the claim that the school violated Title IX is not a plausible claim, and that the female athletes shouldn’t be entitled to any monetary damages.
U.S. District Judge Todd Robinson denied most of the defendants' request except as to the standing of some students, including those who are no longer students and those who did not participate in the Zoom meeting. But the judge found the student-athletes who were on the Zoom call with the coach had sufficiently claimed they were intimidated and threatened because they'd filed the Title IX complaint.
“The judge did make some rulings that we think were erroneous, and we’re evaluating what to do about them now,” Bryant said. “Ultimately SDSU is going to be held accountable.”
Robinson granted the plaintiffs leave to file a third amended complaint in the next 30 days, but they can’t make any more attempts to claim the absent plaintiffs have standing to bring a retaliation claim.
The CSU board of trustee's attorney Ashley Higginson declined to comment on the ruling.
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