Yes, this is discrimination. But it is not UNLAWFUL discrimination. Most discrimination is not unlawful unless it is based on specifically protected classifications such as race or national origin or religion, without a good and necessary reason.
The coach may or may not have the authority to make and enforce the decision that you are complaining about, but that is not an issue or question of unlawful discrimination or even of law. It is an issue of the school's policy. The school has the authority to make the decision re participation, and it has apparently delegated that authority to the coach. The school has a legal right to authorize the coach to make policies in this subject and to rely on his judgment so long as his judgment does not violate the law. But the school also has the power and right to overrule the coach and decide the issue differently.
If this is a public school, you might want to talk to an attorney who litigates civil rights and public spending issues against schools. A lawsuit based on your son's claim of a right to participate based on spending issues is a long long long-shot and would undoubtedly be very expensive. But a good discussion with a litigator in this legal subject matter may help you to understand the issue more clearly.
In all events, you do not have a defamation claim here and it is unlikely that any statements by a public employee coach would add up to defamation under any realistic circumstances.
This dispute is unlikely to resolve satisfactorily by reference to the laws and legal process. This is a challenge calling for high degrees of diplomacy. When the other side has all the power, you need the gift of persuasion, not the empty threat of a big stick. Good luck.
No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.
It may be a little more complicated and more information is needed. If he is in high school this could be a violation of the high school rules. If they allow him to run it could jepordize the entire team. If this is a CIF school you need to look a the rules stated in the CIF blue book. We have delt with this situation before and sometimes it is just poor communication. The school should have rules also. If he is on the team and follows the rules he should be allowed to run.
Your question seems to reflect an understanding of the difference between beleiving something to be true - that the coach is refusing to let your son run because of his membership in a group - and proving it. If the coach stated that as his reason to another person, or expressed it in an e-mail or other written communication that you have, that would provide evidence to support your belief. I agree with Ms. McCall that most discrimination is not unlawful, but it's not possible to determine which side the coach's actions fall on without knowing more about the facts. Setting aside the litigation route, you may consoder going to the coach's supervisor, the school principal or superintendent to advocate for your son. This may be your best bet if the coach's actions are not illegal but run afoul of school policy and/or basic fairness.
Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.