Scheduling Inequities Violate Title IX, Appellate Court Rules

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The Women's Sports Foundation congratulates Coach Amber Parker, formerly of Franklin County, Indiana, and her attorneys, who prevailed in an appellate court decision in a case challenging Franklin and other Indiana high schools' decisions to schedule boys' basketball games more frequently than girls' games on "prime time" Friday nights. In 2009, Parker filed a lawsuit alleging that the disparity of scheduling boys' games for Friday nights nearly all of the time, while scheduling girls' games for Friday nights only about half of the time, violates Title IX, which has been interpreted by Department of Education regulations to require equity in the "scheduling of games and practice times." A lower court had earlier dismissed the suit, but yesterday an appellate court has reversed that decision and reinstated the case.

Citing the Women’s Sports Foundation’s amicus brief, (with 11 other organizations signing on), the appellate court acknowledged that the scheduling disparity was substantial enough to constitute a violation of Title IX.

As our amicus brief argued, parents and community members are less likely to attend weeknight games, which deprives the girls' teams of audience and the support of fans. It also imposes on girls a larger burden that their male counterparts to balance sports with academic work during the week. Moreover, the court acknowledged that the scheduling disparity can harm female athletes in a psychological way because it casts girls' activities as inferior to boys’ activities. This inferior treatment, reasoned the court, contributes to the perception that girls' sports are "second class" and undeserving, a perception that deters girls from participating in sport, "in contravention of the purposes of Title IX." This perception is also transmitted to fans and contributes to their lack of support for girl teams.

This is not the first appellate court decision to conclude that lopsided scheduling violates Title IX. Other courts have found that scheduling girls' sports in the nontraditional season violates the law when it operates to the disadvantage to girls and not boys. Today's important decision expands this precedent to include night-of-the-week scheduling decisions as well, and sends a message to schools and conferences that scheduling is an important component of the equal treatment required by Title IX.

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