Everyone wants to have a winning team, but a school district in Oregon is allegedly taking it to the extreme.
The Lake Oswego High School softball team has been told that it will not receive any new benefits unless it wins a state championship. As a result, the team has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school district.
The crux of the lawsuit is more than just the sensational demand for a state championship, as there is a history of unequal treatment between the softball and baseball teams.
Softball diamond and facilities are lacking
Unlike the baseball stadium, the softball field does not have concessions, seating, a press box, sound system or even a water fountain in the dugout. Also, the softball team competes on a dirt field with drainage problems that routinely floods while the baseball team plays on an all-season artificial turf. Since softball players are not allowed on the bigger baseball diamond, many practices and even games are cancelled after a rainy day.
In addition to lost practice time, the softball team is denied the chance to take extra cuts and improve their swings. Despite being promised a hitting facility after a large donation, the softball team never got it — while the baseball team has an on-campus, enclosed hitting facility.
When the softball team asked why they were denied a hitting facility, the school district said, “the hitting facility would not be constructed unless or until the Lake Oswego High School softball team ‘wins a state championship,'” according to the lawsuit.
So is this good grounds for a Title IX lawsuit?
Gender cannot be a basis for discrimination.
Title IX states that:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Putting my lawyer glasses on, it seems like the Lake Oswego High School has a case, especially if the school district demanded a state championship before upgrading the facilities.
The Lake Oswego High School baseball team has never won a state championship, yet their facilities are up-to-date.
By asserting that the softball team must win to receive the same benefits, the school district is treating the two sports differently. The only real difference between softball and baseball is the gender of the players — which gives credence to the lawsuit.
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The school district is already backpedaling
The school district recently released a statement, and it does not directly deny the allegations.
Instead, the statement insists that the district has a long history of supporting female athletes and that it is the process of improving the conditions and facilities for the softball team. This may be good news for the softball team, but it’s upsetting to learn that a lawsuit has to be the instrument of change for these female student-athletes.
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