Tennessee Cheerleading Squad Charged With Gender Discrimination

After a Columbia Central High School sophomore sued the school's cheerleading coach, the board of ed, the principal and the director of schools, a judge issued a restraining order against the squad; for the moment, no new cheerleaders can be selected.

Here's the deal: Olivia Owens and her parents feel the application process is inherently unfair. Reports the Columbia Daily Herald,

Attorney Matt Bastian, who is representing the plaintiffs in the suit, said the school system is violating federal law and its own policies by distributing different tryout applications for boys and girls for the 2011-12 squad. Bastian interprets the differing applications as prohibiting girls from participating in extracurricular activities other than cheerleading, while allowing boys to play football and serve on the cheerleading squad. Bastian said this policy excludes both female and male athletes playing sports other than football from maximizing their learning experience.

Of course, that word "interprets" will be key to the case. From the Herald,


The tryout applications do not explicitly prevent students from participating in other extracurricular activities. They only state that those activities may not "take precedence over practice or games" for the cheerleading squad. Football players, however, must agree to cheer during the camp, basketball seasons and "may be required to attend practices at specifically arranged times during the summer and football season."

While the school system says litigation was unnecessary, it's a potential Title IX issue. As to the personal component of the suit, it's for a judge to determine. It seems Owens was briefly kicked off the squad, allegedly for not showing up to practice and "defiance," among other things. Her parents claim in the suit that she was "cast in a false light" as a result of these charges. They also claim that the extra-curriculars clause was added "specifically to keep her off the team in 2011-12."

Paranoia, or legitimate complaint? And in the end, does it matter if the policies are inherently unfair? This suit may sound dubious — and the parents, just on the face of it, on the litigious side — but if it serves to uncover another issue, should it be addressed? You have to wonder if the family took it up with the school before going to court, and whether the school was prepared to discuss the issue or dismissed it out of hand — public opinion, if nothing else, may depend on it. Everything else is in the judge's hands.

Tennessee High School Cheerleading Squad Charged With Gender Bias [Insurance Journal]
Discrimination Suit Puts Halt On Cheer Tryout [Columbia Herald]