University backed in wrestling lawsuit
By Julia Ann Easley
A federal judge has ruled in favor of UC Davis in a Title IX case filed by four women who wanted to be on the intercollegiate wrestling team.
In an order issued April 23 in Sacramento, the court held that the plaintiffs in Mansourian v. Regents of the University of California failed to give the campus notice that they were making an allegation against the entire women's intercollegiate athletic program. The plaintiffs had changed the focus of their lawsuit to allege Title IX violations in the overall program after the court dismissed their claims pertaining to the wrestling team last October, finding them to be untimely.
In his 22-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. held that a complaint filed by the former students with the Office for Civil Rights in 2001 was not sufficient to give the campus notice of the broad-scale discrimination allegations they made in the lawsuit.
In noting that Title IX requires a complainant to provide notice to a school of an alleged violation so that it can resolve the issue, Damrell held "the court does not find that Congress intended to create an implied enforcement scheme that may impose greater liability, in the form of monetary damages potentially exceeding the level of federal funding, absent comparable conditions." In addressing the UC Davis case, he ruled "the evidence simply fails to establish that plaintiffs gave defendants notice of a Title IX claim for failing to provide enough athletic opportunities to female athletes."
The court did not address the women's specific allegations.
Damrell's ruling concerned the case's sole remaining claim, which was that the intercollegiate athletic program as a whole does not effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of female students.
"Judge Damrell's ruling is well reasoned and consistent with the overall purpose of Title IX," said attorney Nancy Sheehan of Porter Scott in Sacramento, who represented the university in the litigation. "While we strongly believe the court would have ruled in favor of the university on the remaining allegations, we understand that it was not necessary for Judge Damrell to reach those issues because of his ruling on the notice issue."
The Mansourian case was brought in December 2003 by four former students. The women objected to having to try out for the wrestling team under the same criteria as male students who wanted to be on the team. The Office for Civil Rights investigated their complaints about the wrestling team and found no violation of Title IX. The federal law prohibits sex discrimination in education programs, including athletic programs, at institutions receiving federal funding.
During the course of the lawsuit, the four women abandoned an attempt to have the suit certified as a class action. Last year, the court dismissed the claim that the women wrestlers were subjected to unequal treatment because of their gender. It also dismissed the claims asserted against five campus officials.
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