Consent decree in Title IX suit over disparities in scheduling girls’ basketball games sets legal precedent in Seventh Circuit
The Associated Press (AP) reports in The Republic that a federal judge in Indiana has signed a consent decree between the Franklin County Community School Corp., former girls basketball coach Amber Parker, and nine of its opponent schools which calls for girls’ and boys’ games to be scheduled equally by the 2016-17 school year, with interim steps until then. According to Parker’s attorney, William Groth, the agreement to schedule girls’ and boys’ basketball games equally on Friday and Saturday nights sets a legal precedent for the entire state of Indiana.
Although the consent decree applies only to the 10 schools involved, it sets a solid legal precedent across the entire 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals because the federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that equal scheduling for both genders is required under Title IX of the Higher Education Act, according to Groth. “The 7th Circuit’s decision earlier this year sent a clear message not only to the lower federal courts but to all high school athletic directors that Title IX requires equality in all phases of high school athletics, including the scheduling of athletic contests,” Groth said.
Parker’s case challenged the practice of schools giving boys’ games preference for “prime time,” or Friday and Saturday nights and the night before Thanksgiving. Under the consent decree, Franklin County and the schools it plays agree to schedule at least two more girls’ games during prime time in 2013-14 than it did in 2011-12, at least four more the following year, and at least six more in 2015-16 until reaching scheduling parity in 2016-17.
“We would have liked to have seen the timetable for getting to full equality accelerated,” Groth said. Because schools schedule games years in advance and sign contracts, “we had to agree to phase in these steps toward equality.” The Franklin County schools’ superintendent, Debbie Howell, said the district “is pleased that a settlement has been reached that will allow the school corp. to continue to move forward in providing opportunities for both our female and our male student-athletes.”
Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, said the settlement of the case “is a great victory for the Indiana girls affected by their school’s unfair scheduling practices.” “It is simply unacceptable that as standard operating procedure a school would consistently prioritize boys’ athletics schedules over that of the girls. This case sends a strong reminder to all schools that they must treat girls fairly in all aspects of athletics,” Greenberger said.
Commissioner Bobby Cox of the Indiana High School Athletic Association said it encourages its member schools to provide equity in scheduling, but “there’s some schools that have an imbalance.”
Source: The Republic, 10/16/12, By Ken Kusmer (AP)
[Editor's Note: The consent decree in Parker v. Indiana High School Athletic Association states: "During and after the 2016-17 school year, Boys’ and Girls’ varsity basketball games at Franklin will be equally scheduled during prime time with a 'safe harbor' for Defendants of not more than a two game differential during prime time."
In February 2012, Legal Clips summarized the decision of a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit in Parker v. Franklin Cnty. Cmty. Sch. Corp., which held that two female basketball players had presented sufficient evidence for trial on their Title IX claim of denial of equal athletic opportunity against several Indiana school districts based on disparity in scheduling boys’ and girls’ basketball games. The panel also found that the school districts were not entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from the players’ equal protection claim based on the scheduling disparity.]