ACLU Hawaii expands Title IX lawsuit against DOE to a class action lawsuit
A local civil rights group is still pushing to put boys and girls on equal playing fields. Last December, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department of Education, alleging Title IX violations.
HONOLULU - A local civil rights group is still pushing to put boys and girls on equal playing fields. Last December, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department of Education, alleging Title IX violations. Now, it's trying to officially classify this as a class action lawsuit.
This federal law requires boys and girls to have equal opportunities in sports. Any institution that accepts federal money is required to comply with Title IX.
ACLU attorney Wookie Kim is a member of the legal team that filed the lawsuit. He explains the case: "This lawsuit is filed on behalf of two female athletes at Campbell High School."
The lawsuit is filed as a class action, "which means those two girls are trying to represent all present and future female athletes or female students at Campbell High School," he continues.
Just over two weeks ago, the ACLU of Hawaii filed its latest motion for Class Certification. Kim explains that's "basically the formal request with the court to approve the lawsuit as a formal class action."
"Part of the process is getting the class of plaintiffs certified. We’re now formally asking the court - as part of the class action procedures - to certify that the two individual plaintiffs can represent a broader 'class' of female athletes," adds ACLU of Hawaii executive director Josh Wisch.
Until the court or judge formally “certifies” a lawsuit as a class action, it technically is not a class action. The technical legal term to refer to a class action lawsuit before it is certified is “putative class action" - so that's what was filed last December.
If approved, the lawsuit would combine individual lawsuits of many different people into one. "There is a reason why we're filing this as a class action lawsuit, because this is not the first time the ACLU has been involved in Title IX issues and DOE schools."
Part of the lawsuit states that facilities weren't booked on time: equipment wasn't up to regulation and posed safety hazards, and the coaching for females was inconsistent.
The next step is a hearing on the motion. Kim details, "The Department of Education and the Oahu Interscholastic Association will have an opportunity to oppose our motion and make arguments that this lawsuit should not proceed as a class action."
Supporting the motion are five declarations from the plaintiff families. A mother of one of the plantiffs, identified anonymously as "K.T.," was quoted as saying, I have seen that Campbell does not treat female athletes equally. The experience of the girls’ on the swim team and water polo team shows how Campbell has treated female athletes unequally... For at least the past three years, Campbell failed to timely secure a facility for the girls’ swimming and water polo teams. Every year, the pool facility is addressed at the last minute or even after the start of the season. The coaches at Kapolei High School do not have these same problems with securing facilities."
KT's daughter is a water polo player and swimmer. KT says she met with Campbell administrators to address this issue, but found them "hostile." She and her daughter left the meeting in tears, according to the declaration. She says she's "disgusted" with the situation and accuses the school of "discrimination." All five declarations carry a similar tone.
The hearing is scheduled for July 5.
KITV4 Island News reached out to the Department of Education on this latest turn, but has not yet heard back. In previous stories on the issue, the DOE has repeatedly stated it cannot comment on pending legal issues.