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Federal Trial Could Answer Question: Is Cheerleading a Sport?

In Connecticut, a federal judge will rule on whether or not cheerleading is a sport. The lawsuit filed by the Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University’s volleyball members and its coach, Robin Sparks, further looks at whether schools need to look for other ways to meet the gender equity requirements. The school cut the women’s volleyball team last year and instead put in place a competitive cheer squad.

Cheerleaders.jpgThe judge in the case, Judge Stefan Underhill, further needs to determine if the school manipulated the size of its rosters on other teams to ensure that it meet the requirements of Title IX, a federal law established in 1972 that requires all schools to offer equal options for men and women in athletics. The judge has ruled that the lawsuit should be a class action suit for all current and future female athletes at the school. The trial will go to US District Court in Bridgeport for a decision.

The judge issued a temporary injunction last year to stop the school from disbanding the volleyball team until a decision is made. That decision was made because Underhill found that the school was over reporting the number of participant opportunities for females and underreporting those for men.

The case has drawn attention by other women’s sports players and coaches. Not only will the case decide if cheerleading is a sport, but also what requirements need to be put in place for counting players. For example, the women’s track athletes are counted three times as members of outdoor, indoor and cross country teams.

Upon investigation, it was determined the school’s men’s baseball and lacrosse teams would drop players before they had to report to the Department of Education. Then, they would reinstate the players after reports were submitted. The opposite was true for the women’s softball team, where players were added prior to reporting, knowing those players would not play. The school’s officials declined to comment about the lawsuit, but believe that it is in compliance with Title IX.

Students and coaches are unable to comment on the case. However, attorneys for the plaintiffs stated that the lawsuit is significant because it is the first to rule on whether competitive cheer is a sport. The cheer coach believes that cheerleading is a sport. The school says that the cheer squad offers more athletic opportunities for women and costs less. The judge has recognized that cheer does have competitive attributes, though it is not an NCAA recognized sport or emerging sport.

One of the qualifications to be in compliance with Title IX is that there must be a governing body for the sport. Quinnipiac has formed a governing body along with seven other schools called the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association.

The school has said that any improper changes in rosters have stopped and that the percentage of men and women athletes is now in line with the population of the school and in compliance with Title IX.

If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.