By Sarah Favot, Pasadena Star-News
PASADENA >> The Pasadena Unified School District reached an informal settlement with the California Women’s Law Center and other groups over a complaint the district discriminated against girls in its after-school sports programs for middle school students.
The California Women’s Law Center, the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP settled a Title IX complaint against PUSD after the district agreed to expand its PasadenaLEARNs after-school program to include girls sports programs.
In settling the complaint, the district did not admit to violating Title IX, a federal law that protects students against sex discrimination, said Vicky Barker, legal director of the CWLC.
The groups chose not to file a lawsuit because district officials were cooperating with reaching an informal settlement, Barker said.
“The district is in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, but decided that it is most prudent to resolve this matter so that it could dedicate and, indeed, invest its limited resources in the education of all its students rather than incur the additional expenses associated with defending a potential lawsuit,” PUSD spokeswoman Hilda Ramirez Horvath wrote in a statement.
Barker said a parent of a PUSD student came forward with the complaint a year ago after her daughter did not make the co-ed basketball team in the district’s interscholastic after-school sports programs. The district was also offering co-ed flag football and co-ed soccer.
“The impact of selecting those co-ed sports was that very few girls signed up,” Baker said. “They were having try-outs and cuts and only the very, very best girls could play.”
Baker said she is pleased the district settled the matter without a lawsuit and said she didn’t believe the district intentionally discriminated against female students. Baker said this is the center’s first Title IX complaint involving middle school students.
The CWLC filed a Title IX lawsuit against Alhambra High School for providing unequal opportunities for female student-athletes. The lawsuit was settled in December.
As part of the agreement with PUSD, the district will offer separate sports programs for boys and girls, adding girls basketball and girls soccer, which were in place even before the agreement was finalized, Baker said.
“Playing sports is important to me, and I couldn’t believe that my only option was to cheer for the boys,” said Sophie Lindsay, a PUSD student, in a statement from CWLC. “When I learned they were starting a girls’ basketball team, I was excited. I knew that you have to speak up when you know something is wrong, but I have always struggled with it. I’m proud that I did speak up because girls are just as important as boys.”
There will also be equal treatment when it comes to publicizing, recruiting, coaching, uniforms, equipment and facilities as part of the agreement.
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