Female Athletes and School District Settle Title IX Case After Ninth Circuit Ruling

The California Women’s Law Center (CWLC), the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, and Sweetwater Union High School District have reached agreement to resolve issues in the class action lawsuit, Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District, et al., which addressed Title IX discrimination and retaliation issues at Castle Park High School.

As a result of the lawsuit, filed in 2007 regarding gender inequities throughout the Castle Park High athletic program, the District has improved facilities for female student-athletes by enhancing the softball field, adding team rooms for female athletes, offering new teams for girls to equalize opportunities to play, and providing ongoing training to enact a norm of access and opportunity for all. The District is committed to immediate and lasting improvements and Plaintiffs’ counsel will be working with the District until at least 2024 to ensure that change is permanent.  

In September 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 2012 District Court’s ruling that Sweetwater was in violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which bars sex discrimination in education, including athletic programs.  LAS-ELC, CWLC, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, were called upon by students at Castle Park High School when Sweetwater released the high school’s softball coach after demands for the school to provide equal treatment for the girls’ sports program.

U.S. District Court Judge M. James Lorenz found that, “The balance of hardships weighs firmly in plaintiff’s favor.  The inequities demonstrated at trial should have been rectified years ago by the district. . . . Defendants are required to comply with Title IX in all aspects of its athletic programs and activities.”

Elizabeth Kristen, Director of Fair Play for Girls in Sports at LAS-ELC stated that “this case has had major implications for girls throughout the country who are being denied the benefits of equal athletic opportunities guaranteed by federal law for more than four decades.”

CWLC Executive Director, Betsy Butler added, “This case is a powerful reminder that high schools are mandated to provide equal opportunities for girls and boys and schools that retaliate are breaking the law.”

After more than eight years of litigation, female students of Sweetwater Union High School District will greatly benefit from this landmark victory by finally receiving equal treatment.

“Hopefully there will be a day when there no longer will be a need to educate people about Title IX because our nation’s school administrations will have a culture that instills gender equality,” added Joanna S. McCallum of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement and look forward to working together with our community partners to build a culture where everyone is committed to equity for all stakeholders, including students, families and staff. Our Board is dedicated to ensuring equity permeates our entires organization,” stated Dr. Karen Janney, Superintendent.

About Sweetwater Union High School District

Founded in 1920, the Sweetwater District has grown to more than 42,000 students in grades 7 through 12 and more than 32,000 adult learners. The district’s 32 campuses are located in the cities of Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego, including the communities of Bonita, Eastlake, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and South San Diego.

About the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center

LAS-ELC, founded in 1916, is committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income workers and their families. LAS-ELC’s Fair Play for Girls in Sports project aims to ensure girls in grades K-12 participate equally in school and community sports so they may reap the lifelong rewards of athletic involvement such as improved health and higher wages as adults. For more information, visit las-elc.org.

About the California Women’s Law Center

Since its founding in 1989, the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) – a 501c(3) nonprofit organization – has worked to eliminate the barriers that keep women and girls in poverty.  CWLC breaks down barriers and advances the potential of women and girls through transformative litigation, policy advocacy and education.  CWLC is a leader in Title IX education and enforcement in California at the high school level and advocate for the unique needs of women veterans. For more information, visit cwlc.org.

About Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

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