Ongoing civil suit brought to the Jordan School District over sex discrimination in High school

Logo of the Jordan School District

Logo of the Jordan School District

Matthew Drachman, Editor In Chief Float

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Since June of 2017, the Jordan School District has been involved in an ongoing court battle with the Utah Girls football league. The suit was brought on by the Leagues manager, Brent Gordon, who has struggled getting the sport sanctioned by the UHSAA since it’s conception back in 2015.

 

The Argument of the league is that the district has not met the standards of what federal regulations dictates that equal opportunity for sports for both boys and girls requires. These regulations being related to what Title IX, which prevents educational institutions discriminating based on sex.

 

How it stands now, the district has said it has provided equal amounts of sports for both boys and girls (That being 11 sports each, the most recent of which was lacrosse. A new sport hasn’t been added to the UHSAA since 1990.) However, the league argues that Title IX dictates that there needs to be equal amounts of athletes for it to meet the standards of Title IX.

 

Currently, there are an estimated 3100 boys who play in sports compared to 1600 girls in the Jordan School District.

 

“If we prevail, then we expect the school districts to add enough new girls’ sports so that the number of girls who participate in sports is equal to the number of boys who participate in sports,” Mr. Gordon had told the scribe.

 

The case is still not yet closed at the time of this article being written, however it’s ruling can have major repercussions on how High Schools sanction sports in the Jordan School District and throughout the state of Utah.

 

Mr. Gordon goes on to say how this would work, “For example, in the 2018-2019 school year, Riverton had 482 boys who played sports compared to just 302 girls. Riverton will need to add enough new girls sports so that girls will have 482 opportunities to play sports. To add 180 more opportunities, the school will need to add more sports than just girls wrestling and girls cheer.

 

According to Mr. Gordon, reasons that the school district had provided to what the district was resisting this suit, was that the district did not want to set a precedent for adding new sports because of a parent suing them, and that they wished to add other sports first that were ahead of the girls tackle football request.

 

The district has had plans in the works of sanctioning girls wrestling and competitive cheer as a result of the lawsuit.

 

The Scribe reached out to a spokeswoman from the Jordan School District to get a comment on the current suit, which was politely rejected.

 

Mrs. Gough, who is the Riverton High School Principal, commented on the issue, “I’ll just say that as a school, we wait to hear from UHSAA which sports have been sanctioned. We do not control whether or not a sport becomes sanctioned. Once a sport or activity is sanctioned we welcome that group and begin figuring out field space, uniforms, practice schedules, storage, coaches, equipment, etc etc. As there are a lot of activities that go on each season, sometimes it’s tricky to find places and times for everyone, but we make it work! Until the UHSAA sanctions a sport, students can participate in those activities as a club team as long as they go through the club application process and follow district policy for non-academic clubs.”

 

She goes on to talk about Title IX, saying “I know there are many Title IX issues associated with girls football and any sport that is sanctioned. It’s a balancing act for sure!”

 

The suit has revealed major problems in the district’s handling of Title IX issues. Court documents obtained by the Scribe show an exchange between Mr. Gordon (who is representing himself and the league) and June LeMaster, who is listed on the JSD website as the Title IX coordinator for the district. The Title IX coordinator for the district is a job mandated by the federal law to investigate complaints related to sex discrimination.

 

The deposition of LeMaster, which is dated March 29th, 2019, shows a confusing testimony in which there is a struggle to see if Lemaster is even the Title IX Coordinator.

 

Q. Will you spell your name, please.

.A.  It’s J-u-n-e L-e-M-a-s-t-e-r.

 

…..

 

  • Q.· · And are you the Title IX coordinator for
  • 23· ·Jordan School District?
  • 24· · · · ·A.· · Yes.
  • 25· · · · ·Q.· · And how long have you held that position?
  • ·1· · · · ·A.· · For approximately ten years.
  • ·2· · · · ·Q.· · And how were you selected as the Title IX
  • ·3· ·coordinator?
  • ·4· · · · ·A.· · So during the district split, I had worked
  • ·5· ·with the former compliance officer and had conducted
  • ·6· ·investigations for employees.· And when the district
  • ·7· ·split, they eliminated that department and delegated
  • ·8· ·the responsibilities out.· So I was designated the
  • ·9· ·district compliance officer at that time.
  • 10· · · · ·Q.· · And the district compliance officer
  • 11· ·included the job duties of the Title IX coordinator?
  • 12· · · · ·A.· · The former position did.· When the
  • 13· ·different assignments were delegated out, I received
  • 14· ·the employee piece of that.· There’s a person in our
  • 15· ·district who conducts the 504 compliance.· There’s a
  • 16· ·person who does the special ed compliance.· So it
  • 17· ·varies based on the complaint.
  • 18· · · · ·Q.· · Okay, but as far as the Title IX
  • 19· ·coordinator, then, as I understand it, you were given
  • 20· ·the position of Title IX coordinator when the
  • 21· ·district was split?
  • 22· · · · ·A.· · District compliance officer was my title.
  • 23· · · · ·Q.· · And so they, whoever was in charge, said
  • 24· ·okay, and we’d like you to also be Title IX
  • 25· ·coordinator, too?f
  • ·1· · · · ·A.· · No.
  • ·2· · · · ·Q.· · Okay, so how did you become the Title IX
  • ·3· ·coordinator?
  • ·4· · · · ·A.· · I am the district compliance officer.  I
  • ·5· ·don’t investigate Title IX complaints.
  • ·6· · · · ·Q.· · So you are not the Title IX coordinator?
  • ·7· · · · ·A.· · I’m the district compliance officer, not
  • ·8· ·the Title IX coordinator.· Yes, you’re correct.
  • ·9· · · · ·Q.· · Okay.· So if I look on websites and other
  • 10· ·information that the district posts, and it says that
  • 11· ·you’re the Title IX coordinator, those posts are
  • 12· ·incorrect?
  • 13· · · · ·A.· · I serve primarily as a clearinghouse for
  • 14· ·complaints.· I do investigate employee complaints
  • 15· ·because of my position as the HR administrator, but I
  • 16· ·don’t investigate student complaints.
  • 17· · · · ·Q.· · Let me ask this, just a yes or no
  • 18· ·question.· Are you the Title IX coordinator for the
  • 19· ·Jordan School District?
  • 20· · · · · · · ·MR. PARRY:· Objection; asked and answered.
  • 21· · · · · · · ·MS. TERRY:· Join.
  • 22· · · · ·Q.· · (By Mr. Gordon)· You can answer.
  • 23· · · · ·A.· · No.”

 

This would go on for sometime, which the lawyer representing the district and LeMaster would call for a short recess, afterwards LeMaster would clarify.

 

“BY MS. TERRY:

  • 3· · · · ·Q.· · June, I understand you wanted to clarify
  • 4· ·one of your previous answers.· Go ahead.
  • 5· · · · ·A.· · Okay, thank you.· I just wanted to clarify
  • 6· ·that I realize that I am listed as the Title IX
  • 7· ·coordinator, but my position is to serve as a
  • 8· ·clearinghouse.· I handle the employee claims, but the
  • 9· ·students’ claims are distributed to the proper person

10· ·in our district that follows up on those,

11· ·investigates, comes to some conclusion.”

 

A major point that has been brought up by the district is the interest in the sport. Which is something is often argued with many sports, if there is no interest in them then why have them? Another document obtained by the Scribe was a survey that was conducted by the Jordan District, Canyons District, and Granite to gage interest with girls in different sports.

 

The survey showed that among the 6,690 female students that were surveyed, who attend 9th through 12th, 1,500 of them said that they would rank girls football in their top three, and 590 would rate it number one.

 

The Survey also found that out of the 17 of 19 high schools surveyed could have the potential to sustain a team with the level of interests found within the school.

 

There has been part of this case that has embroiled the topic, and that is the possibility of sexism to be affecting the decision. Mr. Gordon had shared experiences with the Scribe about how some administrators in the granite district allegedly said they would rather suspend guys football then let girls play.

 

He would go on to explain about other things, “Before Title IX was passed in 1972, no girls in Utah were allowed to play high school sports. So sexist policies prohibited all girls from playing sports prior to the enactment of Title IX. People used to make fun of girls who wanted to play contact sports like football and wrestling and would call them names…” later saying as well, “…Sexism is the sole reason girls cannot currently play tackle football for their schools.”

 

This sentiment can be heard among some RHS female Athletes, Elsie Johnson who is a RHS Lacrosse player, stated that the league was justified in suing the district. 

 

“I am not completely informed on the situation of the girls football but as a female athlete in lacrosse I understand their frustration because it doesn’t matter what sport you play, males always get more attention, more fans, more recognition when we practice the same amount and sacrifice just as much. And their extra recognition often leads to more opportunities for them with sponsorship’s for gear and swag and camps and training. I think the girls football league is justified in suing because football is an area where almost exclusively the boys get all the rewards and recognition and staff and money. The contrast of the girl’s situation and the boy’s situation is huge.”

 

Megan Perry, who is the captain of the RHS Girls football team and a RHS Junior, which as of the time of this article being written, is a club at RHS, stated on the matter of sexism, “… it is dependent on the situation, but I believe that the biggest reason for the districts holding off is because of lack of budget and from what they understand to be a lack of interest…”

 

Though this case is still ongoing, it is tough to tell how the case will turn out. The case may seem to bring the light of a new exclusive girls team for football to most high schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley. This suit could bring to light new sports that have been for a long period of time argued and stalled while being approved.

 

Though if the suit fails, it may take longer for a girls football team to actually come to light. With many high schools already having a club dedicated to sport, they are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this suit, and what this will mean for not just girls tackle football, but for girls sports in general.