According to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, softball players in a California school district can sue the school district over the firing of their softball coach. The suit alleges that the firing violated the students’ rights under Title IX. They alleged that the firing was an act of retaliation, punishing the students because their coach advocated on their behalf.
The legal issue here is what the lawyers call “standing.” A person cannot sue another person just because. They have to allege facts to establish that they suffered an injury of some sort. This case breaks new ground by holding that the players on a high school team have legal “standing” to sue under Title IX when their coach is fired. “Standing” would not be an issue if the coach had filed the suit. He lost his job. That’s an injury sufficient to get him in the courthouse door. But the kids?????
Here’s how the court put it:
Coach Martinez gave softball players extra practice time and individualized attention, persuaded volunteer coaches to help with specialized skills, and arranged for the team to play in tournaments attended by college recruiters. The softball team was stronger with Coach Martinez than without him. After Coach Martinez was fired, [the district] stripped the softball team of its voluntary assistant coaches, canceled the team’s 2007 awards banquet, and forbade the team from participating in a Las Vegas tournament attended by college recruiters. The district court found these injuries, among others, sufficient to confer standing on Plaintiffs. We agree.
This case has drawn a lot of attention from advocacy groups interested in Title IX. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice joined in the suit against the district. The court held that the district violated Title IX in a number of ways, but the biggest news here is the ruling that the students can claim “retaliation” based on the termination of their coach.
The case is Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District, decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on September 19, 2014. It can be found at 768 F.3d 843.
DAWG BONE: TITLE IX INVOLVES MORE THAN A NICE SOFTBALL FIELD.