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The case began with an effort to compel the creation of a separate football league for high school girls in three different school districts in Utah. School officials declined and said it was enough for the girls to participate in their schools’ coed football teams. The girls’ parents sued and sought class certification, invoking Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The district court certified a class on the equal protection claims, conducted a bench trial and found no constitutional violation. The district court denied certification of the Title IX claims.
A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel out of Salt Lake City, Utah, found the district court erred by denying certification on the Title IX claims, applying the wrong standard on commonality by focusing on the differences between schools rather than the need for all class members to prove a reasonable expectation of competition within the three districts.
The 10th Circuit reversed and remanded for consideration of class certification on the Title IX claims.
The 10th Circuit also ruled the district court didn’t err by finding the defendants’ coed football program satisfied the equal protection clause. The appeals court upheld the district court’s findings that the football program was facially neutral and had no discriminatory purpose.