HONOLULU — The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of two female high school athletes, claiming they are being unequally treated based on their gender.
The lawsuit filed Thursday against the state Department of Education and the Oahu Interscholastic Association claims the athletes at James Campbell High School “experience grossly unequal treatment, benefits and opportunities in relation to male athletes.”
The Oahu high school does not have a locker room facility for female athletes, so the girls must find alternative places to change into uniforms, like teachers’ closets, restrooms at fast food restaurants or on the field, according to the suit. To use the restroom, they must run back to the campus gym, use “decrepit Porta-Potties” or go behind the bushes.
“I know from talking to our plaintiffs, it made them feel like they weren’t valued,” said Joshua Wisch, ACLU of Hawaii executive director. “It made them feel like they were second-class compared to the boys, which is ridiculous.”
The suit also points out several other disparities between male and female athletes, including game scheduling, travel opportunities, sports promotion and funding for coaching.
The state Department of Education was informed decades ago that it was not in compliance with Title IX, the federal law barring gender discrimination.
“The DOE said it was working to close those gaps. But what followed was four decades of delay in providing female athletes with treatment, benefits, and opportunities equal to those received by male athletes as required by Title IX,” the lawsuit said.
The department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation and noting it has not yet been served with the lawsuit.