Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Keep the lawyers on speed dial

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) lawsuit that has been going on since 1998 is finally over. The Supreme Court denied MHSAA's latest appeal thus ending the case.
For those unfamiliar with the Michigan saga, Communities for Equity, a group formed by Michigan parents, sued the athletic association because of a variety of civil rights violations which resulted in girls' athletics continually being discriminated against.
The biggest battle--as the media reported it--was over seasons. Six girls' sports were being played in the "wrong" season (i.e. not in accordance with collegiate seasons). This made college recruitment more difficult. MHSAA argues that this was done because of facility and coaching issues. MHSAA probably would not have had such legal troubles if they had disadvantaged students in an equitable manner; after all, not every high school student-athlete is going to be recruited. But if this really was not such a big deal, as MHSAA contended, then they would have moved more boys' sports out of season.
What has been problematic about the case is the attention given to the seasons issue. This was not the only issue in the initial lawsuit--as I found out this past weekend when I heard the lawyer for Communities for Equity, Kristen Galles, speak in Cleveland. CfE was successful in getting MHSAA to add two more girls' sports to their list of sanctioned sports and address other Title IX concerns.
Now that every claim has been settled, MHSAA executive director Jack Roberts said they are ready to move forward. Next year all sports will be in the correct season. But Roberts clearly is not happy about this. All along he has argued that Title IX should not be applied to MHSAA because it does not receive federal funds (but all its member schools do!).
And Roberts is doubtful that this will really work and worries about the strain on facilities--especially during the winter when boys' and girls' basketball (which often field three teams: varsity, jv, and freshmen) are in season. Roberts thinks that girls will get "the short end of the stick;" getting bad practice and game times.
Um...clearly the concept of equity is still a little hazy in Michigan. Title IX specifically prohibits doling out non-ideal practice and game times in an inequitable manner. This whole, long case was meant to bring about a more equitable situation in Michigan high schools. Attitudes like these (and there is quite a strong opposition to these changes--read some of the comments following the stories) make me think the legal challenges are not over.

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