An appeals court decided Tuesday to revive a lawsuit filed by 11 female hockey players from the University of North Dakota to have their sports program reinstated.
In the original complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the university violated Title IX laws protecting female athletes from gender discrimination when it eliminated its hockey program.
US District Judge Daniel Hovland asserted that the suit couldn’t prove the “substantial disproportionality” in athletic opportunities experienced by male and female athletes brought about by the respective enrollments of men and women at the school.
The women appealed the decision in October, and a three-judge panel determined that the students could state an actionable Title IX claim and send the case back to district court. UND responded to the development with an official statement, declaring that the court’s opinion did not justify reversing the school’s decision.
“The Court did not suggest that UND’s decision was wrong, but rather relied upon a narrow textualist rationale in reversing the District Court. We remain confident that UND’s decision will ultimately be upheld. UND’s actions were legally permissible and were in the best financial interests of the University,” the statement read.
Women in Sports
UND officials pointed out that a limited budget resulted in the decision to cut women’s hockey, as well as men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. However, the players argue that hockey is the most popular sport for women in North Dakota, and the program has had Olympic stars such as Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux.
Before the appeal was filed, Atty. Daniel Siegel, who represented the players in the initial suit, said that the issue should be decided on both context and proportionality.
“What I mean by that is that we’re not talking about the University of Miami, we’re talking about the University of North Dakota in a state and in a region where ice hockey is the most popular sport. And girls and women are increasingly playing ice hockey, whether it’s at the high school, club or college level,” he explained.
“Under these circumstances, we think that it’s apparent that the University of North Dakota is not treating female athletes as well as male athletes and we should be allowed to prove that,” he said.