Title IX Limits Probed |in Anti-Gay Bias Case

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Pepperdine University dodged – but may still have to answer – civil rights claims brought by two female basketball players allegedly harassed by coaches over their sexual orientation, a federal judge ruled.
     Haley Videckis and Layana White sued Ryan Weisenberg, also known as Coach Ryan, and Pepperdine University for violating their civil right to privacy, as well as violations of California education code and Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972 – which prohibits discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.
     Although Pepperdine University maintains ties to the Churches of Christ, Videckis and White say in their complaint that the university is willing to admit lesbian students but states it will expel them if the students engage in the sin of premarital sex.
     The students say Weisenberg repeatedly badgered them with questions about their sexuality and eventually told the team that “Lesbianism is a big concern in women’s basketball and is not tolerated on this team.”
     Eventually, the harassment – and threats to pull the women’s scholarships – became so severe that White attempted suicide in September 2014. Weisenberg barred both women from playing basketball and no one within the university would help get them reinstated, according to the women’s complaint.
     Pepperdine moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the women had not shown that a request for medical records or questions about their sexual orientation constituted a serious invasion of their right to privacy.
     The school noted that its demand for Videckis’ medical records was to evaluate her tailbone injury to assess her ability to play basketball, not to examine her gynecological records as the students allege.
     Pepperdine also argued that inquiring about the women’s personal relationship did not violate federal or state education laws, which only protect against gender discrimination and have not been extended to include sexual orientation.
     In a ruling issued April 16, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson noted that while NCAA athletes give up a certain amount of privacy over their medical records when they agree to play sports, conditions and body parts not related to the sport in question are off limits for teams and their doctors.
     However, Videckis’ complaint did not contain specifics as to whether Pepperdine demanded her medical records for a tailbone injury or a gynecological exam – which would have no bearing on her ability to play ball – so Pregerson agreed to dismiss the claim with leave to amend.
     But the judge kept alive the women’s claims that Pepperdine invaded their privacy with questions about their sexual orientation, noting it would take a trial to determine the severity of the invasion.
     As for the women’s Title IX violation claims, Pregerson said the law does not include sexual orientation protection. But he also acknowledged “recent case-law from the Supreme Court and from the 9th Circuit indicates the bounds of Title IX may not be so narrow,” according to the 18-page ruling.
     “Because plaintiffs have not contested Pepperdine’s argument that Title IX does not cover sexual orientation discrimination, and because plaintiffs contend that they can state a case based on gender discrimination, the court will dismiss plaintiffs’ Title IX claim with leave to amend,” Pregerson wrote. “However, the court notes that the line between discrimination based on gender stereotyping and discrimination based on sexual orientation is blurry, at best, and thus a claim that plaintiffs were discriminated against on the basis of their relationship and their sexual orientation may fall within the bounds of Title IX.”
     The students have 20 days to amend their complaint in a way that “fully addresses and satisfies the elements required to bring a Title IX claim,” Pregerson concluded.
     Neither side responded to requests for comment by press time.

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