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Court says LSU violated Title IX laws, students' rights

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 2, 2000
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BATON ROUGE, La.-A court of appeals ruled Thursday that the Louisiana State University Athletic Department intentionally violated a federal law when it denied several female students the same access to sports as men.

A lower court judge, Rebecca Doherty, ruled in 1996 that while LSU's athletic department was "archaic," the university did not intentionally violate Title IX.

The panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Doherty's ruling, allowing the five students who originally sued to seek "unlimited" damages from the university.

"We conclude that LSU violated Title IX by failing to accommodate effectively the interests and abilities of certain female students and that its discrimination against these students was intentional," Judge Carl Stewart wrote.

Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that says no person should be excluded from participation in any federally-funded program or activity on the basis of sex.

Three female students filed the original lawsuits in 1994 after they approached the LSU Athletic Department several times requesting to form a women's varsity soccer team, said Nancy Rafuse, a lawyer for the students.

Following the university's denial of that request, the students hired a lawyer, she said.

In meeting with Athletic Director Joe Dean about forming the new team, Dean allegedly referred to student Lisa Ollar repeatedly as "honey," "sweetie" and "cutie," and said the university should consider the formation of a varsity soccer team because players "would look cute running around in their soccer shorts," according to the court's written opinion.

These statements added strength to the Court of Appeals' finding that LSU intentionally violated Title IX, according to the opinion.

Rafuse said the judge's ruling that LSU did intentionally violate the law backed up her clients' claims.

"It validates what they've been through," she said. "It is not easy when you're 20 years old to hire a lawyer and sue your school, especially when it's LSU."

Though the ruling also is allowing the females to seek unlimited monetary damages from the university, Rafuse said her clients did not know how much money they would seek.

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