Education Law

7th Circuit Revives Suit Claiming Girls Basketball Denied 'Prime-Time' Scheduling

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A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals has revived a lawsuit that claims a girls basketball team in Indiana gets less desirable scheduling than the boys team in violation of Title IX.

The Chicago-based panel held that the Franklin County, Ind., school system should face trial to determine whether an “obvious disparity” in the schedules amounts to denying equal athletic opportunities to girls, Education Week’s School Law blog reports.

The suit maintains that during the 2009-10 basketball season at Franklin County High School, 95 percent of the boys team’s games were given prime-time spots on Friday or Saturday nights, while just more than 50 percent of girls’ games were played on such nights when there was no school the following day.

In its Jan. 31 opinion (PDF), the 7th Circuit said non-prime-time games “result in a loss of audience, conflict with homework, and foster feelings of inferiority.”

In reversing a lower court’s summary judgment dismissing the case, the circuit judges illustrated the disparity with a description School Law describes could have come straight from the movie “Hoosiers”:

“A packed gymnasium, cheerleaders rallying the fans, the crowd on their feet supporting their team, and the pep band playing the school song: these are all things you might expect to see at an Indiana high school basketball game on a Friday night. The crowd becomes part of the game; they provide motivation, support, and encouragement to the players. After all, what would a spectator sport be without the spectators?”

But the court said this scenario doesn’t necessarily fit when it comes to girls basketball. “Unfortunately, this is a question the Franklin County High School girls’ basketball teams must answer every season because half their games have been relegated to non-primetime nights (generally Monday through Thursday) to give preference to the boys’ Friday and Saturday night games,” the panel opined.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs.

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