Student sues district for discrimination under Title IX | TCTA
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Student sues district for discrimination under Title IX

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A student sued a school district for sex discrimination under Title IX. She also claimed the district violated her constitutional right to due process.

In filing the lawsuit, the student claimed that she sustained severe and permanent injuries because her cheerleading coach forced the team to complete 150 to 200 "frog jumps" after she was late to practice. The student developed rhabdomyolysis, which is a serious syndrome due to direct or indirect muscle injury. She argued that her injuries were the result of inequitable funding practices and inadequate training at the school. The district court dismissed the lawsuit and the student appealed to the court of appeals.

The court of appeals noted that the proper test under Title IX is whether the school district's policy "intended to treat women differently on the basis of their sex." However, in this case, the plaintiff did not allege that the policy intended to discriminate against her on the basis of sex. In fact, she was arguing that neither physical education staff nor any other school or community personnel were permitted to use physical activity or physical education class or athletic practices as a form of punishment. Therefore, she was actually arguing that employees of the district were violating the policy.

A plaintiff can also prevail under Title IX if they are able to prove that the district funds boys and girls sports differently. Although the plaintiff did make this claim, she failed to tie this allegedly inequitable funding to the harm she suffered at cheerleading practice in anything other than a "speculative and conclusory manner." Consequently, she failed to state a claim for intentional discrimination under Title IX.

Regarding the claim that the district violated her rights to due process, the court found that the imposition of exercise as punishment is not a constitutional violation. Therefore, it upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Although this case does not discuss this aspect of the issue, the imposition of excessive physical exercise in violation of board policy can lead to other adverse legal consequences for teachers. Physical exercise should never be imposed as a punishment. TCTA members who have been accused of imposing excessive physical exercise as punishment should contact the TCTA Legal Department.