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Judge: Girls' basketball games schedule not discriminatory

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A federal judge has ruled that 14 school corporations haven’t discriminated against girls’ basketball teams by scheduling more of their games on weeknights instead of weekends as compared to boys’ basketball games.

Amber Parker, the former girls’ basketball coach at Franklin County High School, filed the suit on behalf of her daughter, who played on the team, accusing the Indiana High School Athletic Association and 14 school districts in western and southwestern Indiana of discriminating against girls’ high school basketball programs. After Parker and her family moved out of state this year, Tammy Hurley and her daughter C.H., also a player, were added to the suit in July.

The plaintiffs claimed in Amber Parker, et al. v. Indiana High School Athletic Association, et al., No. 1:09-CV-885, that the IHSAA and the school districts violated Title IX and the 14th Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 by scheduling the girls’ games on non-preferred dates and times, which are typically weeknights. The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana had previously dismissed the Title IX claim against the IHSAA, and granted the school districts' partial motion for summary judgment on the Section 1983 claims on Sept. 27, 2010. In an opinion released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Lawrence granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the remaining claims – the Title IX claim against the school districts and the Section 1983 claim against the IHSAA.

The plaintiffs asserted an equal treatment claim against the school districts based on the scheduling of boys’ and girls’ basketball games, but the 1979 Policy Interpretation of Title IX doesn’t require identical scheduling for boys’ and girls’ sports. Their scheduling doesn’t deprive the girls’ team of role models, inhibit their skills development, or prevent team building.

“In short, the disparity in treatment in this case simply does not rise to the level seen in either Communities for Equity [v. Michigan High School Athletic Ass’n, 178 F.Supp 2d. 805 (W.D. Mich. 2001),] or McCormick [v. Sch. Dist. of Mamaroneck, 370 F.3d 275, 288 (2d Cir. 2004)]. The School Defendants’ treatment of the Plaintiffs does not result in a disparity that is so substantial that it denies the Plaintiffs equality of athletic opportunity,” wrote the judge.

Judge Lawrence noted the novel theory the plaintiffs used to try to hold the IHSAA liable for its “deliberate indifference to gender-based discrimination” even though the IHSAA isn’t responsible for the schedules. The plaintiffs argued the IHSAA turned a blind eye to the discriminatory scheduling, and by not mandating gender equality, the organization facilitated the gender-based discrimination.

“The problem with the Plaintiffs’ argument is that despite their rhetoric, they have not cited a single federal case that supports using a deliberate indifference theory to hold the IHSAA liable in this situation,” he wrote. “Just because the Plaintiffs have allegedly suffered an injury does not mean that they can hold the IHSAA liable.”

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