Jane Doe (her again) tore her ACL. She alleged that the basketball coach then bullied and harassed her. Doe filed suit against the school district based on Title IX (sex discrimination) and Section 504/ADA (disability discrimination). The court found no merit in either claim.
The court noted that the lawsuit included nine pages of factual allegations, which is well above average. However, none of those allegations indicated that the coach was treating Ms. Doe badly because of her sex. There is no Title IX claim unless there is sex discrimination. The plaintiff alleged that the coach hassled her over her injury—but not because of her gender. So much for that.
But what about the 504/ADA claim? After all, surely a torn ACL makes a person “disabled.” Actually, the court held that it does not. The court noted that “Merely having an impairment does not make one disabled.” To be a “person with a disability” as the term is used in the law, the impairment has to “substantially limit” the person in a “major life activity.” Here, the plaintiff alleged that the “major life activity” was basketball—which she equated with “her life.” Jane Doe is apparently a very good basketball player, and she loves the game.
But that doesn’t make it a “major life activity.” We don’t get to define what is “major” based on our personal preferences. The term “major life activity” is defined in the law and does not include basketball. It doesn’t even include watching football on TV on a fall afternoon. The legal definition leaves room for interpretation, but as the court noted, prior rulings had already established that “Participating in sports is not a major life activity.”
The court also noted the transitory nature of this injury. The pleadings in the case indicated that the “impairment” would last for less than six months. Tearing an ACL is painful and temporarily disabling. But people do recover.
So whatever bad treatment Ms. Doe may have endured was not because of her sex. And she failed to get to first base on her disability discrimination claim because she did not qualify as a “person with a disability.” I hate to use a baseball metaphor in a basketball case, but I think it makes the point.
The case is Walter, as next friend of Jane Doe v. Birdville ISD, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on August 20, 2018. I’m proud and pleased to report that Birdville ISD was represented in this case by Meredith Walker of our firm’s Irving office. Great work, Meredith!
DAWG BONE: BASKETBALL MAY BE “YOUR LIFE” BUT THAT STILL DOESN’T MAKE IT A “MAJOR LIFE ACTIVITY.”
Tomorrow: Good stuff for board presidents found on an old overhead slide.