For Immediate Release
Contact: Tara Murtha Kathleen Yurchak
Women’s Law Project Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak
LOCK HAVEN ATHLETES SUE FOR ATHLETIC EQUITY AND SEEK TO STOP IMMEDIATE HARM TO WOMEN’S SPORTS
Philadelphia, PA (June 5, 2017) – Eight Lock Haven University female student-athletes have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the university’s failure to provide equitable athletic opportunities and benefits for female students. Plaintiffs also seek immediate relief to prevent Lock Haven from implementing announced changes to the women’s swim and field hockey programs that would irreparably harm the teams.
The case, Emily Robb et al v. Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, was filed to the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The student-athletes, represented by the Women’s Law Project and Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak, brought the lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs, and specifically applies to athletic programs. Title IX requires equity in athletic participation opportunities, scholarships, and treatment.
Instead of closing its decades-long gender gaps in athletic participation and treatment, Lock Haven earlier this year targeted its women’s swim team for elimination and its women’s Division I field hockey team for demotion to Division II by the end of the year. Although it revised its plan in March, “the revised plan continues to discriminate against women and will achieve the same goals as the original plan through other means,” said attorney Kathleen Yurchak of Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak.
Having already driven swim recruits away, Lock Haven’s revised plan included firing the head swim coach, delaying his replacement, and reducing coaching and competing opportunities for the swim team. With swimmers transferring to other schools and no one recruiting more swimmers, the team will soon be weakened if not eliminated altogether, at a time when Lock Haven is already failing to provide equal athletic opportunities to its students.
Lock Haven’s revised plan delays the field hockey’s demotion for one year, but requires the team to raise its own funding without any guarantee of preventing demotion. Demotion of Lock Haven’s only women’s Division I team but not the only men’s Division I team (wrestling) violates Title IX’s equal level of competition requirement. It will drive away players and competitors who want a Division I competitive experience. If Lock Haven is not stopped from demoting the team pending final court order on the merits, the team will be diminished and is unlikely to be able to return to Division I status under NCAA rules.
“As Lock Haven’s different treatment of its women’s teams so clearly shows, Lock Haven treats its female athletes like second-class citizens. The law does not permit that,” said attorney Terry Fromson of the Women’s Law Project.
Lock Haven’s recent actions exacerbate its long history of discrimination against its women students. Forty-five years after the adoption of Title IX, Title IX compliance is long past due.
The Women’s Law Project (WLP) is a public interest law center with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The WLP’s mission is to create a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of women throughout their lives.