PUSD settles Title IX sports equity claim filed by student and her mother
By Stephanie Davis 06/25/2014
Sophia Lindsay, a middle school student in the Pasadena Unified School District, was shocked to learn she would not be allowed to play interscholastic basketball at the district’s PasadenaLEARNs after school program. Why? Because she is female.
Monday marked the 42nd anniversary of the historic passing of Title IX, the federal law that gives women equal athletic rights in scholastic, collegiate, and professional sports. However, after so many years, there is still trouble with achieving gender equality in sports.
Until recently, middle school girls at PasadenaLEARNs were not allowed to participate in the interscholastic sports that their male counterparts were engaging in. For example, boys were given an opportunity to play flag football, but the girls in the program were barred from it.
“There were no girls’ teams at all,” said Elizabeth Kristen, senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, who worked on the settlement. “There were only boys’ teams and coed teams, and less than 10 percent of the middle school players were girls.”
“I was disappointed when I found out that I couldn’t play basketball because there was no girls’ team,” said Lindsay. “Playing sports is important to me, and I couldn’t believe that my only option was to cheer for the boys.”
Lindsay and her mother complained about the girls’ athletic options to the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC), the Legal Aid Society and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (Simpson Thacher). A claim was sent to the district calling for more girls’ teams to be integrated in the PasadenaLEARNs program, and that not doing so was a breach of Title IX. The claim was settled without a lawsuit being filed.
“I am extremely encouraged to see that the injustice occurring at Pasadena Unified and PasadenaLEARNs has been rectified without the need for legal action,” said Vicky Barker, legal director of the CWLC.
Basketball and soccer programs for girls were added to the interscholastic sports program last winter and spring, and fall may even bring a girls’ volleyball team. Middle school girls, like Sophia, were actively participating in basketball and soccer when the teams were added. Now there is hope that the girls will continue take advantage of athletic opportunities in their middle school careers and beyond.
“When I learned they were starting a girls’ basketball team, I was excited! I knew that you have to speak up when you know something is wrong, but I have always struggled with it. I’m proud that I did speak up because girls are just as important as boys,” said Lindsay.
“Title IX was passed more than 40 years ago, so it is truly unacceptable to find that schools are still discriminating against girls in sports,” said Jayma Meyer of Simpson Thacher. “We know girls who participate in sports at an early age are more likely to be successful in school and in their careers. The expansion of the PasadenaLEARNs program promises to set up a new generation of girls to succeed in their educational and athletic careers.”