(Baldwin Park, CA) – Sierra Vista High School in the Baldwin Park Unified School District has agreed to important changes that will level the playing field by providing equal athletic opportunities, treatment and benefits for its female athletes.
Title IX requires gender equity in education, including in athletics. Although Title IX has been the law for 46 years, girls in high schools across the country still are regularly subjected to inferior athletic equipment, facilities, and opportunities compared to their male counterparts.
Collectively, Legal Aid at Work, the California Women’s Law Center, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (Simpson Thacher) represented female athletes at Sierra Vista High School who alleged their school was significantly out of compliance with Title IX. For example, the girls’ teams did not have comparable practice and competition facilities to the boys’ teams, and female volleyball players were relegated to practicing in a cramped and unsafe gym space. Similarly, the girls’ softball team practiced and played on a neglected and dilapidated field, while the boys’ baseball fields were pristine and included covered and shaded dugouts. In addition, the sports opportunities offered to girls at the school were not proportionate to the number of female students enrolled.
Once notified that it was not in compliance with Title IX, Sierra Vista High School worked with counsel for the school’s female athletes to make facilities improvements as well as implement best practices.
“We are pleased the school has agreed to take steps to ensure girls at Sierra Vista have the same athletic opportunities and benefits boys do,” said Amy Poyer, Senior Staff Attorney with the California Women’s Law Center and co-counsel for the students. “We applaud Sierra Vista for working toward equity for girls in sports and helping create a level playing field.”
Because of the settlement, the girls’ softball field has been renovated and ongoing maintenance will be prioritized. All girls’ teams will have comparable practice and competitive facilities to those provided to boys’ teams. And many more girls will be able to participate in sports because of newly added teams and facilities improvements.
“Sports equity is vital to girls—to their self-esteem, self-advancement and self-confidence,” said Jayma Meyer, an attorney with the law firm of Simpson Thacher who also served as co-counsel for the students. “When girls participate in sports they develop many long-term life skills in addition to the more immediate physical and cognitive benefits. Almost 90 percent of female executives of Fortune 500 companies have played organized sports on some level.”
“It is great to see Sierra Vista taking its obligations under Title IX seriously and recognizing the crucial importance of equality for girls in sports,” said Elizabeth Kristen, co-counsel for the athletes and Director of the “Fair Play for Girls in Sports” program at Legal Aid at Work. “This settlement shows that, even in challenging budget times, our schools recognize how important it is to maintain equal access and provide equal benefits to and treatment of girls’ and boys’ sports teams.”
Sierra Vista High School has denied any violation of Title IX and is committed to a course of action to promote and develop female athletics. This settlement represents an amicable resolution of the disputes—an important victory for female students at this school and beyond.
California Women’s Law Center
The California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) breaks down barriers and advances the potential of women and girls through transformative litigation, policy advocacy and education. Founded in 1989, CWLC focuses on the following issue areas: gender discrimination, economic justice, violence against women, and women’s health. CWLC continues to be a leader in Title IX enforcement in California schools.
Legal Aid at Work
Legal Aid at Work (LAAW), founded in 1916, is committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income workers and their families. LAAW’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports project spurs schools and parks and recreation departments to treat girls equally on and off the field. Focusing particularly on girls of color and girls who live in low-income communities, this work promotes the health, educational achievement, and future employment opportunities of girls in grades K-12.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (www.simpsonthacher.com) is one of the world’s leading international law firms. The Firm was established in 1884 and has more than 900 lawyers. Headquartered in New York with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., the Firm provides coordinated legal advice and transactional capability to clients around the globe. Simpson Thacher has an abiding commitment to public service and devotes tens of thousands of hours each year to pro bono projects.