SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Sevier County High School parent has filed a lawsuit accusing the school system of unequal treatment of female athletes in violation of federal law.
The parent of a softball player filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville. It alleges that female athletes are not provided funding, equipment and facilities equivalent to those provided to male athletes in violation of Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funds and ensures students have equal opportunity to participate in school-sponsored activities like athletics.
The Fourteenth Amendment requires that a state shall not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”
It cites several examples of alleged unequal treatment between the Sevier County High School baseball and softball programs. It contends that the baseball team has exclusive control of on-campus facilities for practice and games with superior locker rooms and dugouts while softball players must travel to an inferior, off-campus field shared with city programs.
The baseball program has exclusive control of on-campus, climate-controlled fieldhouse with indoor hitting lanes and a pitching machine with video and analytics capabilities. The lawsuit states that the softball program has no access to indoor hitting lanes, but an outdoor cage with a bare concrete floor shared with the county.
Softball players at times must find their own transportation to practices, away games, and offseason activities. The suit states that the baseball and football teams are more frequently provided a bus for travel.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction that will force the school system to adopt and implement a budget and plan to provide greater support to female athletes. It also seeks reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
“Sevier County Schools is aware of this lawsuit, but we do not comment on pending litigation.”Tony Ogle, Sevier County Schools Assistant Superintendent