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Six Utah girls sue for chance to play football at school

First Published      Last Updated Jun 28 2017 10:02 am

Girls want to play for high school teams so they can earn accolades considered by colleges, gain access to other perks, parents write in lawsuit.

The parents of six Utah high school students filed a lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court against three school districts, citing a lack of girls' football teams.

The Jordan, Canyons and Granite school districts discriminated against female high school students by not providing them a football team, the lawsuit alleges.

The parents also are suing the Utah High School Activities Association and the superintendents of each district.

"[The] districts fail to provide equal treatment and benefits to girls as they do boys because [the] districts give boys the right and opportunity to use the high school football fields, stadiums, facilities, but do not provide girls the same treatment and benefits," the lawsuit states.




One of the high school students helped form the Utah Girls Tackle Football League in 2015, the suit states. Within a week of the league opening, 50 girls had registered, according to the suit. The following year, participation grew to 100 girls, and in 2017, 200 girls joined, according to the suit.

One hundred girls who played in the league this year would be eligible to play at high schools in the fall, the suit states.

Herriman High School — in the Jordan School District — approved a girls' football club earlier this year, and 50 girls who attended the high school's sophomore orientation signed a form stating they'd like to learn more about girls' football, the suit says, adding that the other schools would see similar interest.

The lawsuit requests that the districts offer official girls' teams through Herriman, the other high schools in the district, and the high schools in the Canyons and Granite districts.

Girls would rather play for high school teams than for recreational teams, the parents write in the suit, because they'd have the support of cheerleaders and a band and could earn accolades that are considered by colleges.

They also could compete for regional and state championships, earn school credit for physical education classes, and could have their accomplishments documented by school and local newspapers, the suit says.

Ben Horsley, spokesman for Granite School District, said Monday that the district had received the Title IX complaint, adding that the district had worked with the plaintiff in the past and feels "comfortable" that it is providing the "appropriate amount of school activities for our students, regardless of their gender."

"We work closely with the High School Activities Association to identify athletic opportunities for both genders," he said. "If there were sufficient interest in a female-only football league and it were sanctioned by the High School Activities Association, we would have no issue in providing such a program. But that is not currently the case."

There are "less than a handful" of female students district-wide who choose to participate in football by joining the boys' team, Horsley said. There's a similar situation with wrestling, he added. The district adjusts its athletics according to interest, he said.

Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney declined to comment on pending litigation Monday, but said district officials will "continue to review this complaint."

He said the school supports its student athletes and offers a variety of UHSAA-sanctioned events. Recently, the district added lacrosse for both boys and girls "because of demand," he said.

Voice messages left for a Jordan School District representative had not been returned as of Monday evening.

tfrandsen@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tiffany_mf

 

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