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Appeals Court Allows Ind. Title IX Lawsuit to Move Forward

Is it a violation of Title IX if a school schedules nearly all of their boys' basketball games on Friday and Saturday nights, while relegating nearly half of their girls' basketball games to school nights?

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit questioning the legality of such scheduling could move forward, overturning a previous district court's decision to dismiss the case.

In Amber Parker v. Franklin County Community School Corporation, the plaintiff—the former women's basketball coach in Franklin County—sued the district, alleging that the girls' team was negatively impacted by the disparate scheduling.

The appeals court said games on weeknights "result in a loss of audience, conflict with homework, and foster feelings of inferiority" for the girls' team. Thus, they reversed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' Title IX claim and equal-protection claim.

Tom Wheeler, the attorney defending the Franklin County schools, told the Indianapolis Star that they hadn't yet decided whether to appeal the decision.

"With respect to Franklin (County), we know there's a disparity," he said to the paper. "We said to the court, while there is a disparity, it does not impact their athletic opportunities. We're (also) resolving (the disparity)."

Title IX, signed into law in 1972, requires any school which receives federal funding to provide equal athletic and educational opportunities to males and females. The plaintiffs in Parker argued the opposite of Wheeler—that the girls' team, by being relegated to weeknights, did suffer.

One of the plaintiff's daughters, a player for the girls' team, said that relegation to weeknights made her feel like her accomplishments were inferior to the boys' team. The players also wouldn't get home until after 10 p.m on weeknights with games, forcing them to stay up late hours to complete their homework.

To be clear, the appeals court did not decide the case this week and rule against the school district. They simply allowed the suit to proceed to trial, based on the evidence provided about the harm caused to the girls' basketball team by the disparate scheduling.

"The decision sends a clear message to schools, coaches, and athletes: it is not acceptable for boys' teams to be given preferential treatment over girls," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, in a statement.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs estimated that the case will take 12 to 18 months to reach trial if the school district doesn't appeal, according to the Star.

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