Fresno State women athletes win Title IX appeal, protecting equality in school sports
January 17. 2024
For Immediate Release
Jan 17, 2024
On January 17, six former Fresno State women’s lacrosse team members achieved an important Title IX victory at the country’s second most powerful court — the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — in a successful move protecting Title IX’s ability to ensure gender equality in school sports.
The ongoing case will determine the role of class action lawsuits in Title IX athletics, deciding whether student athletes can join forces across different sports to fight for gender equality at their school, and on behalf of multiple teams.
Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) submitted an amicus brief supporting the students, with 17 partner organizations signing onto our brief as amici curiae. The plaintiffs are represented by Bailey & Glasser, LLP, with co-counsel Caddell & Chapman.
The appeal was brought to challenge a 2022 lower court decision (Eastern District Court of California) that denied class certification, ruling students from one team could not file a class action that includes athletes from other sports teams at the same school. ERA’s brief urged the 9th Circuit court to overturn this decision, as it goes against the very definition of Title IX and decades of established legal precedent.
“Enabling students to fight for each other regardless of what sport they play is essential to fulfill the purpose and promise of Title IX,” said Maha Ibrahim, Senior Attorney, who is lead ERA counsel on the brief. “The appellate court has drawn a line in the sand, ensuring student athletes can stand together against gender discrimination, and sending a firm message that schools cannot wiggle their way out of complying with Title IX.”
Most successful Title IX athletics cases are class action lawsuits, so if allowed to stand, the bad lower court decision would have severely limited Title IX’s ability to combat discrimination in school sports programs in the long term. This is because Title IX compliance often requires evaluation of a school’s entire athletics program to determine whether gender discrimination is occurring.
The 9th Circuit court has remanded the case back to the lower court for reconsideration, dismissing the lower court’s original reasoning for denying class certification to the students.
ERA supported the Fresno State athletes in their successful petition to the 9th Circuit last year, requesting that court’s review of this matter with an amicus brief submitted in partnership with Claire Diallo of The Larew Law Firm.
Thanks to the following organizations for signing on to our brief as amici curiae:
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island
California Women’s Law Center
End Rape On Campus
Family Violence Appellate Project
Family Violence Law Center
Legal Aid at Work
The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Organization for Women
Southwest Women’s Law Center
The Drake Group, Inc.
Women’s Law Project
Women’s Sports Foundation
Equal Rights Advocates fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, they have been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation.