Written by Justin Strawser (Staff Writer email@example.com), reprinted with the permission of www.newsitem.com
Attorneys representing the parents of a seventh-grade girl seeking permission to be part of Line Mountain all-male wrestling program say the district is generalizing the ability of girls and unnecessarily sexualizing a sport.
A 40-page response was filed Monday by Philadelphia attorneys Terry L. Fromson, of Women’s Law Project, and Abbe F. Fletman, of Flaster/Greenberg PC, to the district’s 65 pages of documents and statements in which they say they are protecting Audrianna Beattie and male athletes from potentially awkward situations and sexual contact during practices and matches, and the psychological scarring and inevitable injury and defeat of female wrestlers.
Brian and Angie Beattie, Audrianna’s parents, filed the lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of their daughter, who was not allowed on the wrestling program because it’s gender-specific. They say the district is discriminating on the basis of sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of the state constitution.
The district attempts to improperly equate a sport with sexual harassment and improper sexual contact, a comparison that has been legally rejected before, the Beatties’ attorneys said.
In the 1996 federal case of Adams v. Baker, one of 25 cases cited, attorneys said the court determined, “wrestling is a sport and not a sexual activity; there are rules governing the sport and officials present to enforce them; there are coaches to teach the athletes and male coaches regularly coach female athletes.”
The district assumes wrestlers will not only perceive the sport as sexual activity but will engage in “undesired contact,” but these “hypothetical moral justifications” for the district’s policy would not pass under the protection clause or ERA, they argue.
The policy is based on average physical differences between boys and girls, but not differences that necessarily apply to each boy or girl, the response says.
“The school district’s blanket exclusion of girls has used sex as a proxy for strength, vulnerability and skill based on the assumptions that girls are weaker, more injury-prone and less skilled,” the attorneys wrote.
Assumptions ignore that Audrianna has won numerous matches and placed in numerous tournaments against male opponents in the district and Iowa, where she lived previously, they said.
In the 1982 federal case of Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, the court determined that reliance on generalization “has the effect of excluding qualified individuals from the team ‘because they are presumed to suffer from an inherent handicap or to be innately inferior,’” the Beatties’ attorneys argue.
None of the district’s arguments pass constitutional muster, they said.
“To the contrary, they are either unsupported by any record evidence, based on impermissible gender stereotyping, or simply not the type of concern that rises to the level of an important governmental interest.”
They also criticize the district for putting the responsibility on the Beattie family to find other girls interested in starting a female wrestling team. “Under Title IX, with which the school district purports to comply, the burden is on the school to assess such interest,” they said.
A federal judge ruled Nov. 1 that Audrianna is allowed to participate in the wrestling program until the suit is settled. Superintendent Dave Campbell said the district is following the order.
A hearing for preliminary injunction is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday in Courtroom 3 at the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 240 W. Third St., Williamsport, in front of U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann.