Football is king in Texas. Is that a legal issue?

Chloe Murphy’s lawsuit alleges that Northside ISD favored football more than cheerleading. The suit alleges that the district pours resources into football, including significant efforts to provide for student safety, whereas the all-girl cheerleading squad at Clark High School was inadequately supported. According to the suit, this was why the plaintiff was required to do 150 “frog jumps” in sweltering heat, causing physical injuries. All because she was late for practice.

The court dismissed the constitutional claims. To hold the district liable for constitutional violations in a case like this the plaintiff has to show that board policy, or clearly established custom, led to the student’s injuries. But the term “frog jumps” appears nowhere in NISD policy and in fact, the district’s policies prohibit the use of exercise as a form of punishment. So there was no basis for district liability under the Constitution.

What about Title IX? That’s where the plaintiff alleged that the district favored football more than cheerleading. The plaintiff tried to make a sex discrimination issue out of that, but the effort failed:

…Plaintiff’s allegations at most demonstrate a discrepancy between sports.

The court noted that this same argument (by the same lawyer) had been dealt with previously in a case involving a dance team. The court quoted the earlier opinion:

As there are myriad differences between football and the dance team besides the gender of the majority of each activity’s participants, this is not differential treatment of similarly situated individuals. Title IX liability does not arise based solely on the fact that different sports teams might require different treatment based on the unique training, safety, performance, and other specific factors related to each.

It's Murphy v. Northside ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on February 16, 2023. It’s located at 2023 WL 2060744. I’m pleased to let you know that Katie Payne from our firm’s San Antonio office was the lead attorney on this one.


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