School board reaches settlement in Lee High School gender discrimination lawsuit

School board reaches settlement in Lee High School gender discrimination lawsuit

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit alleging unequal treatment between boys’ and girls’ athletic teams at Lee High School at a Huntsville City Schools Board of Education meeting Thursday.

The school board agrees that it has the responsibility to equitably support Lee High School girls and boys sports, they shall be funded on a gender-neutral basis regardless of the source of funding, whether school funds, contributions from boosters, or other third-party donations.

The board also agrees to pay $50,525.75 in attorneys fees.

Filed in June 2018 on behalf of her daughters, the parent plaintiff filed the injunction because of the school system’s failure to provide her daughters with comparable treatment and benefits.

The claim alleges the school system discriminated against the plaintiff’s daughters on a myriad of reasons including funding, provision of equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and coaching opportunities.

Both of the plaintiff’s daughters, 17 and 14, are part of Lee High School’s softball teams.

The court documents specify ten (10) areas where the boys team gets special treatment over the girls:

  • Whether the selection of sports and levels of competition effectively accommodate the interest and abilities of members of both sexes;
  • The provision of equipment and supplies;
  • Scheduling of games and practice time;
  • Travel and per diem allowance;
  • Opportunity to receive coaching and academic tutoring;
  • Assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors;
  • Provision of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities;
  • Provision of medical and training facilities and services;
  • Provision of housing and dining facilities and services; and
  • Publicity.

The claims states HCS allows the infusion of more funding for boys’ sports as compared to girls’ sports, including more money for the baseball program as compared to the softball program at Lee High School.

According to the plaintiff, HCS provides male athletes with better equipment and supplies than female athletes. It explains how the softball program is required to pay for some of their essential equipment and supplies, such as balls, bats and pitching machines. The boys team is provided a mobile batting practice cage, while the girls team is not. There is also mention of an infield tarp on the baseball field that is not provided for the softball program.

Fourth period practice times are allotted for football and baseball programs, but not to the softball program at Lee High, the suit states.

The court document details other inequalities such locker rooms that are not at the same standard, dugouts with no electricity like the boys’ team and outdated backstops for the girls’ team. It also adds the baseball and football facility field lights are superior to the softball facility field lights.

Huntsville City School Board member Elisa Ferrell says the system settled a similar Title IX lawsuit in 2016. On behalf of three Huntsville High School students, a parent filed the suit based on discrimination against female athletes. That lawsuit alleged the three students, a freshman and two sophomores at the time, were being deprived of equal benefits in school-sponsored athletics.

In the settlement reached, it provided for equal funding and support for boys’ and girls’ athletics, whether it comes from school funds, contributions from boosters, or other third-party donations.

WAFF 48 News reached out to the plaintiff’s legal counsel, but they have not returned our calls.

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