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Thursday, December 06, 2018
Title IX Lawsuit: ACLU Sues over Lack of Female Athletic Facilities at DoE Schools
By News Release @ 1:15 PM :: 3833 Views :: Education K-12, Ethics

FEMALE ATHLETES AT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL FILE FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT CLAIMING UNEQUAL TREATMENT OF GIRLS’ ATHLETIC PROGRAMS

Class action lawsuit aims to end discrimination based on sex, stop illegal retaliation by school 

Read the 12/6/18 complaint: TitleIX filing

News release from Hawaii ACLU, Dec 6, 2018

Honolulu: Two female student-athletes attending James Campbell High School (“Campbell”) filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (“DOE”) and the Oahu Interscholastic Association (“OIA”). The lawsuit is brought under Title IX, also known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, a federal law that requires gender equity in education, including in athletics.

The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of Hawaiʻi, Legal Aid At Work, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. In the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i, plaintiffs allege that the DOE and the OIA have discriminated against female athletes on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX.

One of the plaintiffs said: “I feel like I am left out and constantly having to fight for my equity and work five times harder for the opportunities and successes that I want as an athlete. It feels like we don’t matter as much, and that the DOE only wants to fix things when it gets bad or when someone complains because they’re caught in a mess, not because they care.”

The other plaintiff added: “I know so many girls that are passionate and good at what they do but they always get pushed aside. There’s also many girls that want to participate in more sports but they decide not to because the school offers us no support. The boys always get better opportunities, and it’s not fair. I’m worried for my little sister, who just started school at Campbell, and I don’t want her or any other girls to go through we’ve had to. It’s time for a change, that should’ve happened a long time ago.”

Title IX requires equal treatment and benefits in athletic programs – things like locker rooms, practice facilities, and competitive facilities; equipment and supplies; scheduling of games and practice times; availability and quality coaching; travel opportunities; medical and training services and facilities; participation opportunities, and publicity and promotion. The lawsuit describes multiple violations, including:

  • Male athletes at Campbell have a standalone athletic locker room facility located near the athletic fields, while female athletes have no facility and have to change clothes in teachers’ closets, in a fast food restaurant bathroom, and even on the practice field.
  • During the 2017-18 school year, the DOE failed to secure a pool for the Campbell girls’ water polo team practice until after the season had begun, forcing the female athletes to hold dry-land and open-ocean swim practices – poor substitutes that do not adequately prepare the athletes for pool competition.
  • The DOE and the OIA book prime competitive facilities – such as Aloha Stadium – exclusively for boys’ sports programs.
  • Games and tournaments are scheduled by the DOE and the OIA to give prime Friday evening athletic competition slots to boys’ sports programs, while girls’ sports programs are held on off days such as Tuesdays and Thursdays, which have less exposure and community attendance and force the girls to compete on school nights, putting their academic work at a disadvantage.
  • The DOE and the OIA are diverting coaching funds intended for girls’ sports programs in order to hire more coaches for boys’ sports programs and to increase the pay of the boys’ coaches.
  • Travel off the island of O‘ahu for practice, competition, and athletic enrichment is disproportionately reserved for boys’ sports – most notably the football program.
  • Boys’ sports are promoted and advertised far more than girls’ sports. Even Campbell’s website includes many photo albums of boys’ sports programs but not a single album for girls’ sports programs.
  • Title IX also requires that girls have a fair share of the athletic participation opportunities and the lawsuit alleges Campbell girls are discriminated against in this area as well. Girls are lacking approximately one hundred athletic opportunities at the school. Under the law, the percentage of girls represented in the student body should mirror the percentage of girls represented in the athletic program—currently, there are not enough teams on which girls can play, leaving female students stuck on the sidelines, missing out on vital opportunities to enjoy and learn from sports experiences.

ACLU of Hawai‘i Executive Director Joshua Wisch said, “Litigation is always our last resort. But unfortunately, nearly half a century after Title IX was passed and after almost 10 months of trying to work with the DOE, it still failed to produce a substantive plan to comply with the law. And unfortunately, some schools have doubled down on violating Title IX. As noted in our complaint, after the plaintiffs complained formally to Campbell’s administrators, the school retaliated by threatening to ‘cancel’ the girls’ water polo program and even withheld funding and other support from it. This is unacceptable.”

The plaintiffs ask the court:

  • To declare that the DOE and the OIA have illegally discriminated and retaliated against female student-athletes in violation of Title IX;
  • To require the DOE and the OIA to comply with Title IX; and
  • To oversee the DOE and the OIA until they fix the violations, ensuring gender equity in programming in the short- and long-term.

The plaintiffs seek no money for themselves. In making this a class action lawsuit, they want changes to the system for the benefit of themselves, present and future female athletes.

Legal Aid At Work Senior Attorney Elizabeth Kristen said: “Female students deserve a level playing field. Girls who play sports in high school go on to make higher wages as adults compared to their non-athlete peers so achieving the promise of Title IX helps girls thrive in today’s workplace and world.”

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett Counsel Jayma Meyer said: “Playing sports results in many benefits, including positive self-esteem and confidence, better education and employment opportunities, improved emotional and physical health, and valuable life-lessons such as teamwork and resilience.  We must stop short-changing girls. Girls are entitled to the same opportunities and treatment in sports as the boys and accordingly to all the benefits that result from playing sports.”

Hawai‘i has a special connection to “Title IX”, passed June 23, 1972, which created life-changing opportunities for all students, especially girls, to pursue their dreams in education and sports.  Hawaii’s own Patsy Takemoto Minkwas the principal author and driving force behind the legislation. Mink worked tirelessly for education reform during her political career and overcame gender and racial discrimination to become the first woman from Hawai‘i elected to Congress. She also has the distinction of being the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress.

The ACLU of Hawaiʻi has challenged the DOE over Title IX before. In 2010, the ACLU of Hawai‘i won a lawsuit against the DOE over gender inequities in the girls’ softball program at Maui’s Baldwin High School.

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“Ewa Beach State Representative Supports ACLU Lawsuit Against State DOE”

News Release from Rep Bob McDermott, R-Ewa, Dec 6, 2018

HONOLULU, HAWAIʻI – Representative Bob McDermott (R – Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point) supports the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii's gender bias lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Education. 

McDermott asserts, "We are still paying for the terrible decision to build a $170 million high school in Kihei, Maui that was forced upon the DOE by then Speaker Joe Souki and Rep. Kaniela Ing. It was nowhere to be found on the DOE priority list presented each year to the Legislature."

McDermott noted that the DOE would gladly fix the issue regarding the lack of girls' locker room facilities at Campbell High School if they were given the resources by the State Legislature.  

"While welcome and wanted by Kihei, the high school was not and is not needed," said Rep. McDermott. "As a result, the DOE was not given enough money to address things like gender equity and overcrowding in a timely fashion and this just compounds the problem moving forward."

"This ACLU lawsuit is the fruit of poor decisions made by previous legislators who put their personal interests above sound state wide policy," Rep. McDermott concluded.

Rep. Bob McDermott has two children who attend Campbell High School, one of which is a girl. McDermott's own lawsuit against the DOE is languishing in the intermediate court of appeals.

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Coverage

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ACLU of Hawaiʻi Disappointed by DOE Response to Title IX Demand Letter

From ACLU of Hawaii, March 13, 2018

HONOLULU – The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i Foundation (“ACLU of Hawai’i”) is disappointed by the response the State of Hawai’i Department of Education (“DOE”) provided yesterday to its February 9, 2018 demand letter relating to Title IX violations in DOE schools.

The ACLU of Hawai’i demand letter noted that, according to DOE’s 2016 Statewide Athletic Plan, 14 DOE high schools “do not have separate athletic locker facilities for girls, even when boys in those same schools do have such access.” The letter also provided a March 12, 2018 deadline for the DOE to provide a “plan that concretely addresses the glaring inequality between girls’ and boys’ athletic facilities in DOE schools – and does so expeditiously.” DOE’s response included no such plan.

Executive Director Joshua Wisch said: “The response we received from the DOE late last night raises more questions than it answers. It fails to provide the concrete plan we requested, cherry picks a few examples of supposed compliance from some schools, and generally obscures whether and to what extent DOE is complying with Title IX. We appreciate the DOE’s stated availability to answer additional questions, because we certainly have some.”

Legal Director Mateo Caballero said: “Our legal team is thoroughly reviewing the DOE response. The response appears to cast doubt on the accuracy of the DOE’s own 2016 athletic plan. The response is also difficult to reconcile with what we have heard from students and parents regarding the availability of facilities for female athletes in their schools. From what we have seen so far, our original legal concerns—that DOE is violating the U.S. and Hawaiʻi constitutions, as well as Title IX—remain, so we continue to investigate this matter.”

If there are students or parents who feel that they have been negatively affected by the failure of the DOE to comply with its legal obligations under Title IX, please call the ACLU of Hawai’i at (808) 522-5900.

PDF: ACLU Hawaii DOE Title IX Demand Letter

PDF: DOE Response

Background: Title IX Lawsuit? DoE discriminates against female athletes

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