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Case Name Alston v. Virginia High School League ED-VA-0001
Docket / Court 97-cv-00095 ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On August 19, 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 11 female athletes and their parents from southern Virginia against the Virginia High School League under Title IX and 42 U.S.C.A. §1983 in United States District Court for the Western District of ... read more >
On August 19, 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 11 female athletes and their parents from southern Virginia against the Virginia High School League under Title IX and 42 U.S.C.A. §1983 in United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The plainitffs alleged that the Virginia High School League denied certain female athletes in Virginia's public high schools equal treatment, opportunities, and benefits based on their sex in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the VHSL, an incorporated association of several hundred high schools, had a system of scheduling athletic seasons constituted intentional sex discrimination against certain female athletes. The plaintiffs asserted that VHSL's scheduling practices treated boys' sports differently than girls' sports, forcing some girls to stop playing sports they previously were able to play while no boys were ever forced to stop playing sports solely because of scheduling changes. VHSL uniformly scheduled boys' sports such that each sport is played in the same season across the A (small), AA (mid-size), and AAA (large) divisions, which correspond to school size. Boy's basketball was played during the winter season at all public schools regardless of division classification. The schedule for girls' sports, however, varied depending on the division classification of the school. Girls' basketball was played in the fall for division A and AA schools, but in the winter for division AAA.

The VHSL insisted that the majority of female high school athletes did not want the non traditional-season policy changed. The league cited a statewide survey, conducted in 1998, that found that 76 percent of female basketball players in Group AAA, 65 percent in Group AA and 73 percent in Group A preferred to keep the seasons as they were. The VHSL maintained that it was not discriminating against the young women because the majority of the female athletes did not want to change seasons. The VHSL additionally argued that that it would wreak havoc upon the organization of high school athletic departments.

On September 19, 1997, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, but the court (Judge James Michael) denied it on October 16, 1997. On December 22, 1997, the defendants filed a motion to stay, which was subsequently granted. The parties engaged in discovery for the next two years. On July 10, 1998, the stay was lifted.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, and the court heard testimony and oral argument on the issues of class certification at a hearing on December 14, 1998. At the hearing, the court heard the testimony of fact witnesses, including several of the female high school student-athletes whose parents were plaintiffs. On March 31, 1999, the court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification for failing to meet the burden of demonstrating that plaintiffs' claims are typical of those of the proposed class.

On August 2, 1999, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs filed a motion for declaratory judgment and a motion in limine to exclude evidence. In the plaintiff's motion, they asked the court to find that the VHSL was an entity subject to liability under Title IX of the Education Amendments and that the VHSL was a state actor within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 13, 1999, the court denied all three motions.

On October 18, 1999, jury trial began.

On December 22, 1999, the defendants filed amended answer and affirmative defenses, in which the defendant pleaded the affirmative defense of qualified immunity from suits for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and moved for dismissal of the plaintiffs' claim for damages, brought pursuant to § 1983. However, on June 27, 2000, the court rejected both claims.

On July 20, 2000, the jury gave a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. It only took a jury three hours to find the governing body to be in violation of Title IX and the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court granted judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $ 187,000.00. On July 28, 2000, the plaintiffs filed a motion for injunctive relief. On August 7, 2000, the defendants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding jury verdict. On August 24, 2000, the plaintiffs filed in opposition to a motion for judgment nonwithstanding jury verdict.

On March 5, 2001, both parties filed a settlement agreement, and the case was dismissed. A public copy of the settlement is unavailable.

Ginny Lee - 03/23/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Type of Facility
Non-government non-profit
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) Virginia High School League
Plaintiff Description 11 female athletes and their parents from southern Virginia
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filing Year 1997
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
3:97−cv−00095 (W.D. Va.)
ED-VA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/05/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order and Opinion (176 F.R.D. 220) (W.D. Va.)
ED-VA-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/16/1997
Source: Westlaw
Order and Opinion (184 F.R.D. 574) (W.D. Va.)
ED-VA-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/31/1999
Source: Westlaw
Order and Opinion (144 F.Supp.2d 526) (W.D. Va.)
ED-VA-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/13/1999
Source: Westlaw
Judges Michael, James Harry Jr. (W.D. Va.)
ED-VA-0001-0001 | ED-VA-0001-0002 | ED-VA-0001-0003 | ED-VA-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bauer, Mary C. (Virginia)
ED-VA-0001-9000
Galles, Kristen Marie (Virginia)
ED-VA-0001-9000
Waters, Deborah C. (Virginia)
ED-VA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Johnson, James M. (Virginia)
ED-VA-0001-9000
Lynn, Terry (Virginia)
ED-VA-0001-9000

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