Posts Tagged ‘Title IX’

High School Facing Title IX Complaint Over Softball Fields

Posted | Filed under Legal, Softball

Softball parents cry foul over field conditions

What should evoke feelings of nostalgia and pride have instead propelled parents at Lexington High School into legal action. The South Carolina school’s aging softball field is in need of improvements, according to Tanya McCraw. Her daughter still plays there where she played while attending the school in the mid 1990s.

The players’ parents claim the girls’ softball and boys’ baseball facilities are unequal and that their complaints are being ignored. They have filed a Title IX complaint, insisting there are serious safety issues that need addressed.

Parents’ list of complaints include:

  • A storm drain in foul territory along left field line is uncovered posing a trip hazard.
  • The home plate backstop isn’t adequately padded to protect players or fans.
  • The outfield is dimly in areas and is riddled by divots from by bands that use the field to practice.
  • The dressing area is so small that players often change their uniforms in their cars.
  • Dugouts are small and have dirt floors that turn to mud during heavy rains.

What’s in dispute

Officials from the school district say minor problems on the field are being addressed but reject claims of any dangerous conditions. The school replaced lights that were burnt out, is removing mold from the concession stand, and already installed plastic piping along the top of the fences.

But an upgrade to the 24-year-old field would need to be added to a plan that’s already in development for renovations and new facilities, according to district officials. And that would require voters agreeing to a raise in property taxes. Even then, the improvements wouldn’t be made until 2018.

A recent $1.5 million upgrade to the boys’ field include a new backstop, bleachers and dugouts. Funds for that project came from money saved on other project. The boys also have an indoor practice facility, which was built with donated money.

Understanding Title IX

School districts and private educational institutions that receive federal funds need to be aware of Title IX and the potential for litigation and should respond accordingly to make sure that illegal disparities between boys and girls facilities don’t exist. Title IX claims and their legal defense may potentially be covered under a Directors & Officers Liability policy depending on how the complaint is worded.


Fortunately, all’s well that end’s well. While the school district never admitted to violations of Title IX requirements, they did agree to make upgrades. Upcoming renovations include improved lighting, dugouts, backstop, fencing, sound system, practice facilities. Access to weight training for female players, additional fan seating, improved restrooms and a new concession stand are also in the plans. Read about it here.

Source: Tim Flach, “Lexington High’s softball field is unsafe, players’ parents say,” 10 March, 2016.

Applying Title IX to Municipal Field Usage

Do girls have equal rights to field usage?

A client in Oregon contacted me about a problem the local softball league is having as regards access to fields. I doubt this problem is unique, and perhaps other organizations can benefit  from this information.

The local rec baseball and softball teams share a municipal ballpark, which includes multiple practice fields. Apparently, the girls are not given equitable field time except in the fall, when the boys don’t play.The softball teams have offered to help maintain and build fields to pull their weight, to no avail.

The coach asks if Title IX or another statute applies in this case since the fields are part of a public facility.

According to our research, Title IX does not apply to municipalities unless the public facilities were being used for school-based programs. However, the equal protection clause provides an avenue to request injunctive relief if that becomes necessary. However, that can certainly be avoided if the municipality would simply allot field space based on the percentage of boys teams vs. girls teams. For example, if there are 75 boys teams and 25 girls teams, the girls teams should have access to 25% of the prime practice opportunities.

Understanding how the law works can help girls gain access to fields and can help the municipality stay out of trouble.

If you have a question or concern about your sports organization, don’t hesitate to contact me.