High school female athlete scolded for wearing sports bra while boys practiced shirtless, ACLU says
HOUSTON (Gray News) – A high school student in Houston is at the center of a debate about dress code for student athletes, saying she was reprimanded for wearing just a sports bra in 100-degree heat while male athletes were allowed to be shirtless.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas got involved, sending a letter to the Spring Branch Independent School District, saying the student was subject to a discriminatory gendered dress code and other gender inequities at Spring Woods High.
The student, identified as G.H., is the only Black student athlete on the girls’ cross-country and track teams. According to the ACLU, G.H. was “mistreated and denied opportunities and rewards by school district employees” after she complained about the dress code which required her to wear a shirt over her sports bra while male athletes were allowed to practice shirtless in the heat.
The ACLU said that after G.H. complained about the gender inequity, the school district dismissed her concerns and later denied her an award for being the top runner on the girls’ cross-country team. The ACLU said this award would have been a critical credential for college applications and recruiting, potentially denying G.H. future opportunities.
According to the ACLU, G.H. had the best performance record on the team and was the only student-athlete to have never missed a practice.
“I never thought it would come to this point,” G.H. said in a statement. “I had faith that the people meant to protect us would do so and do right by us. Me stepping forward for my teammates may never benefit me, but it will benefit the next young woman of color that looks like me.”
The ACLU letter warns school district officials that their existing policies and practices “potentially put them in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
Liza Davis, Skadden Fellow at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said the alleged discrimination that G.H. faced is unfortunately all too common for Black girls in schools.
“G.H. bravely challenged unfair discrimination and was roundly punished for it, hurting her academic and athletic career and potentially denying her future opportunities in sports,” Davis said in a statement. “We refuse to stand by while Spring Branch ISD staff mistreat the cross-country team’s only Black athlete because she dared to speak up for herself and her fellow students.”
In a statement from the Spring Branch Independent School District to KHOU, the district denied any discrimination and said it treats students equally and fairly.
“We are aware of the situation with one student at one of our high schools who is dissatisfied with SBISD practices, which are applied to all athletes at that campus. SBISD is currently investigating this matter,” the statement reads.
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