ICRC has jurisdiction in basketball race discrimination case

September 5, 2014

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has jurisdiction in a racial discrimination claim brought by a former basketball player against Cardinal Ritter High School, but the ICRC dropped the ball in the case, the Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Aleesha Bullock, who had been Ritter’s leading scorer on the basketball team in the 2006-2007 academic year, was cut from the team the next year. She filed a racial discrimination complaint, but coaches said she showed a lack of commitment because she chose to play soccer rather than attend basketball conditioning.

The school denied the discrimination complaint and further argued the ICRC had no jurisdiction because the school is a private, religious institution. The panel disagreed in Cardinal Ritter High School, Inc. v. Aleesha Bullock, 93A02-1401-EX-47.

“The legislature chose to exempt private, religious institutions from the ICRC’s jurisdiction with regard to employment discrimination complaints; they did not choose to provide the same exemption for discrimination 'relating to . . . education,’” Judge John Baker wrote. “Therefore, we find that membership on the girls’ varsity basketball team at Ritter relates to education under the statute and Bullock’s complaint comes within the jurisdiction of the ICRC.”

However, the panel vacated the ICRC’s judgment that included a $25,000 award in favor of Bullock for emotional damages.

"We find that when, as here, a case hinges entirely on credibility, the issuance of an order by an (administrative law judge) who did not hear the evidence or observe the witnesses is not in accordance with law, is contrary to the constitutional rights of the parties, and is without observance of procedures required by law,” Baker wrote.

“Therefore, we vacate the order of the ICRC and remand with instructions to conduct a new hearing and issue a timely ruling.”

Bullock went on to play collegiate basketball at Trine University in Angola, where she graduated last year.    



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