Saturday, June 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wrestling Spat Won’t Feature Uninvited Player

(CN) - A Pennsylvania wrestling group has no place in a girl's lawsuit against the school district that will not let her join the boys' wrestling team, a federal judge ruled.

Brian and Angie Beattie had sued the Line Mountain School District last month on behalf of their daughter, A.B., who has wrestled competitively against boys and girls since the third grade.

The federal complaint alleges that, after a successful run with the LeMars, Iowa, Wrestling Club from 2010 to 2012, the Beatties moved to Herndon, Pa.

Though A.B. wrestled for the team at her new school, Line Mountain Elementary, last year, the district allegedly refused this fall to let A.B. try out for the seventh grade team.

Coach Darin Keim said school policy prohibits female students from joining the boys' team, despite the lack of a middle or high school girls' wrestling team, the complaint states.

A.B.'s father allegedly complained at several school board meetings, stating that the policy violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and the Equal Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The district repeatedly denied the Beatties' requests, however, allegedly arguing that its policy is based on "the physiological differences between male and female athletes."

Pennsylvania Wrestling Club moved to intervene on Nov. 13, claiming that it has an indispensable interest in protecting A.B. from injury resulting from wrestling with boys that may derail her potential future Olympic career.

The club said it has a statutory duty to "protect the opportunity of any amateur athlete, coach, trainer, manager, administrator, or official to participate in amateur athletic competition."

Hoping to establish a statewide women's wrestling league, the group also sought to join the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) as a "required" party under federal law.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann denied the club's motion Wednesday, however, finding that its "interest" is not sufficiently specific, definite, or direct to warrant intervention as of right.

"The movant seeks to protect [A.B.'s] her wrestling ability from injury so that she may fulfill the movant's dream of 'a promising amateur wrestling career which the Olympic movement desperately needs,'" Brann wrote. "The movant hopes A.B. will be an Olympian in the year 2024, when she will be 23 years old. This interest is substantially more remote than direct, and is not 'a significantly protectable interest.'"

Pennsylvania Wrestling Club's interest in protecting amateur athletics participants is "adequately represented by an existing party in the litigation," the ruling states.

"In actuality, it appears to this court that the movant is attempting to use the underlying narrow dispute between the parties as a cause célèbre to acquire relief that is substantially more expansive and significantly different than that which the plaintiff seeks," Brann added. "The existing parties to the litigation maintain differences in their own dispute, but neither supports the movant's entry into this case."

Furthermore, the athletic association has not tried to obstruct the Beatties' aims, and its bylaws state that it "has no rules that deal with the participation of boys and girls on the same athletic team," according to the ruling.

"Despite the movant's assertions, the court can 'accord complete relief among existing parties' and need not join PIAA to do so," Brann wrote. "The plaintiff seeks only to wrestle on the existing wrestling team at Line Mountain - a result the court can effectuate among the current parties if the merits of the case implore that resolution."

The judge later added: "The only party necessary to effectuate the plaintiff's requested relief is the defendant, Line Mountain School District, which has the policy established that impedes the plaintiff's request. PIAA is neither necessary nor indispensable and shall not be joined."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.